Fox Searchlight Greenlights Alvin Ailey Biopic

By Sameer Rao Mar 23, 2018

The life and works of discipline-crossing dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey leaps from stage to screen as Fox Searchlight puts a biopic into development. 

Deadline reported yesterday (March 22) that the distribution company will create the film with The Ailey Organization, which operates the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) and owns the rights to Ailey’s choreography. Fox Searchlight and a cohort of producers, including musician and actress Alicia Keys, also acquired the rights to his biography, "Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance." 

Ailey first performed under the AAADT moniker with several other Black dancers in March 1958. Ailey developed the New York-based dance troupe as a home for exceptional Black concert dancers to perform original works that draw from music and culture of the African diaspora. The 1960 debut of "Revelations," which incorporates blues and Black spirituals to evoke Ailey’s childhood experiences in rural Texas churches, expanded the AAADT’s international reach. The company went on to tour Ailey’s original choreography around the world, and its successes popularized concert dance beyond its traditionally White and wealthy audience. Well after Ailey’s death from AIDS complications in 1989, the AAADT remains a significant pipeline for Black dancers from various disciplinary backgrounds. 

Deadline noted that AAADT artistic director Robert Battle and artistic director emerita Judith Jamison, one of the company’s most famous dancers and Ailey’s immediate successor as director, will collaborate with producers on the film. “We are thrilled to be working with these incredible partners to bring to the screen the amazing journey and revolutionary choreography of Alvin Ailey, whose life and legacy profoundly impacted people of all backgrounds around the world," Battle told Deadline.