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White House to honor Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey Dance's artistic director

By Sarah Kaufman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 31, 2010; 10:29 PM

Michelle Obama will host a tribute to Judith Jamison, the longtime artistic director of the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, on Sept. 7, the White House announced Tuesday. This will be the Obama administration's first event celebrating dance.

The East Room performance will feature Ailey dancers as well as members of the Washington Ballet, the Paul Taylor Dance Company and the New York City Ballet. Also performing will be one of the Billys from the musical "Billy Elliot" and Super Cr3w, a b-boy troupe featured on MTV's "America's Best Dance Crew." The hour-long program will be directed by former City Ballet star Damian Woetzel, a member of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.

Jamison, whose height and expansive power inspired Ailey to choreograph the piercing solo "Cry" -- one of his enduring hits -- for her, joined the company as a dancer in 1965 and has led it since Ailey's death in 1989. As artistic director, she has overseen the growth of the predominantly African American company into a well-funded and enthusiastically received world-traveler -- perhaps the modern dance world's most financially stable and best-known troupe. She announced in 2008 that she will be retiring in 2011.

The White House tribute will also include a 90-minute afternoon workshop, led by the invited dance companies for students from around the country, who will also be guests at the performance.

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