Judith Jamison born 1943
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Max Waldman (1919–1981)
Gelatin silver print, 1976

Enlarged image

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution:
Gift of Carol Greunke, Max Waldman Archives
© 1976 Max Waldman


Judith Jamison born 1943
Born Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Max Waldman (1919–1981)
Gelatin silver print, 1976

When she was twenty-one, Judith Jamison was selected by Agnes de Mille to appear in de Mille’s The Four Marys with the American Ballet Theatre. She joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became a principal dancer. Her height (5’10”) gave her a regal bearing, and her electrifying performance in Cry, which Ailey wrote for her in 1971, propelled her to international stardom.

Jamison danced with Mikhail Baryshnikov in Ailey’s 1976 Pax de Duke, performed to the music of Duke Ellington, and appeared in companies around the world. In 1980 she starred with Gregory Hines in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies.

She was artistic director of the Ailey company from 1989 to 2011, once explaining, “I don’t feel as though I’m standing in anyone’s shoes. I’m standing on Alvin’s shoulders.”



Enlarged image

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution;
Gift of Carol Greunke, Max Waldman Archives
© 1976 Max Waldman