Dancing Forward

Blavatnik Family Foundation supports Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, elevating artistic innovation, providing scholarships for next generation of performers


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Rennie Harris’ Lazarus, a 60th Anniversary Season world premiere. Photo by Paul Kolnik


Even in stressful times, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater says it remains rooted in the comfort, beauty and energy of art.

Its founder, the late choreographer Alvin Ailey, embraced dance as a means of protest, creating a legacy of artistic activism and inclusion that the company has pursued over the last 62 years, said its artistic director, Robert Battle.

“We mobilize and galvanize every time we step into a school or perform anywhere in the United States or around the world. We have radically changed the environments in which we operate, and yet we are clear about the fact that there is more to do,” Battle said.

The Ailey company is an iconic institution in the world of performing arts, regularly producing what reviewers have praised as breathtaking dances that incorporate the history, influence and spirituality of Black America. That’s taken on even more focus this year as the company has responded to the nation’s social justice movement and taken its programs online in response to the shutdown imposed by the pandemic.

“Our destiny is calling – one without hate, oppression and violence – and it is our turn to answer,” Battle said in a online post that saluted the dance company for providing the “the space, the hope, the example, the balm, the strength” needed in “this struggle as we move forward together.”

The Blavatnik Family Foundation has long been supportive of the Ailey company, providing scholarships for the New York-based Ailey School, which offers world-class, diversified dance training for students of ages 3 to 25. The Foundation also has backed the company’s development of artistic and educational programs, its Choreography Unlocked Festival and Ailey’s 60th anniversary celebration.


Students from The Ailey School’s Professional Division. Photo by Nir Arieli.


Battle said the Blavatnik Family Foundation’s strong partnership with Ailey has provided opportunities for discovery and innovation in the company’s performances and has supported programs for underserved communities.

The scholarships have helped lay the groundwork for many to pursue ambitious careers in the arts. Jacopo Calvo, a scholarship recipient for The Ailey School three years ago, credited the Foundation for helping scores of young dancers achieve their dreams.

“Living and dancing in this city has been such an amazing opportunity, and I know that since the beginning of the school year I’ve grown so much, as an artist and as a person,” he said.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic having upended the dance company’s live performance schedule, it pivoted to provide fans with virtual experiences with a series of online offerings, including dances, fitness classes, educational programs, workshops and original short films created by the Ailey dancers.

From the Ailey All Access site, visitors also can connect to dancer videos on the Ailey Instagram account (@alvinailey), the Ailey YouTube channel, and free dance classes via Ailey Extension.

It’s all designed, Battle said, to expand access remotely, share a joyous voice and bring dance back to the people.