Jamison currently serves as Artistic Director Emerita at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
“Judith Jamison has inspired generations of dancers during her career, first as a dancer herself, followed by her continued role of choreographer and artistic director,” said Alice Palmisano, president of the NAC. “It is our honor to celebrate someone so renowned in the world of dance.”
“I’m very grateful to be honored by the National Arts Club, a superb organization that shares the power of the arts with so many,” stated Jamison. “It’s been a privilege to advance Mr. Ailey’s legacy of inspiring artistry that uses dance and the African American cultural expression and experience in a universal celebration of the human spirit. Now under the leadership of Robert Battle, the Company continues to entertain, enlighten and unite audiences around the world thanks to the vision, genius and generosity of one man–Alvin Ailey.”
The Club will present the Medal of Honor to Jamison during a dinner and reception at the historic landmark NAC clubhouse in Gramercy Park on Wednesday, May 18, 2022.
The evening includes remarks by Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey; Masazumi Chaya, former Associate Director of Alvin Ailey; Camille A. Brown, choreographer, dancer, and dance educator; and Anna Deavere Smith, an actress, and playwright who had the great pleasure of writing the libretto for Jamison’s ballet, Hymn, and a recipient of the NAC’s Kesselring Prize for Playwriting.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is recognized by U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World” and celebrates the African-American experience and the American modern dance tradition.
Jamison joined Alvin Ailey in 1965. Over the next 15 years, Mr. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her, most notably the tour-de-force solo Cry.
During the 1970s and 80s, she appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world, starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, and formed her own company, The Jamison Project.
She returned to Alvin Ailey in 1989 when Mr. Ailey designated her to succeed him as Artistic Director.
In the 21 years that followed, she brought the Company to unprecedented heights—including two historic engagements in South Africa and a 50-city global tour to celebrate the Company’s 50th anniversary.
Jamison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a primetime Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, a “Bessie” Award, the Phoenix Award, and the Handel Medallion.
She was also listed in “TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People” and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series event.
In 2015, she became the 50th inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance.
As a highly regarded choreographer, Jamison has created many celebrated works, including Divining (1984), Forgotten Time (1989), Hymn (1993), HERE . . .NOW. (commissioned for the 2002 Cultural Olympiad), Love Stories (with additional choreography by Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, 2004), and Among Us (Private Spaces: Public Places) (2009).
Her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and published in 1993. In 2004, under Jamison’s artistic directorship, Alvin Ailey’s idea of a permanent home for the Ailey company was realized and named after beloved chairman emerita Joan Weill.
She continues to dedicate herself to asserting the prominence of the arts in our culture, and she remains committed to promoting the significance of the Ailey legacy—using dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.
The National Arts Club
Founded in 1898, The National Arts Club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts.
Annually, the Club offers more than 150 free programs to the public, including exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, lectures, and readings, attracting an audience of over 25,000 members and guests. Feature programs focus on all disciplines of the arts.
Since 2019, the Club has been undergoing a renaissance. New initiatives—such as an artist fellowship, an outdoor concert series, and online programming—have attracted new audiences.
At the NAC’s landmark clubhouse, the former Samuel Tilden Mansion, efforts have been made to reimagine, renovate, and preserve the building’s galleries and historic spaces.
The NAC is also a proud community partner, providing therapeutic art instruction to children in the care of the Administration of Children’s Services, artistic inspiration to students of Gramercy Arts High School, a series of concerts featuring Black and Latino musicians presented in collaboration with the National Jazz Museum in Harlem and Sphinx Organization, and scholarships to children attending Gramercy Brass Band Camp 2021.