Cosby Celebrates Ailey conceived, co-produced and written by former Ailey dancer and choreographer George Faison. The program, which was taped more than a year prior to airing, celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and features Ailey himself dancing in the opening section.
The special premiered on December 24, 1989, just weeks after founder Ailey’s death (December 1, 1989). Despite the tragedy the television special was still treated like a 30th anniversary celebration, not a posthumous tribute to Ailey. Actors Gloria Foster and Anthony Quinn, dancers Judith Jamison and Carmen de Lavallade, and the singer Roberta Flack were one hand with brief comments and contributions. In addition, excerpts are provided from dance works choreographed by Ailey and those he has influenced, including Faison, Jamison and Ulysses Dove.
The hourlong television special ends with the opening and closing portions of the Ailey signature work Revelations, Cosby pointed out Revelations, “Reflects the choreographer’s spirit, soul and legacy.” In both excerpts, and in Cry (Ailey’s soulful tour de force female solo) Faison staged all three with extended, larger cast sizes for the first time. Let’s see how many Ailey dancers can you identify.
Cosby Celebrates Ailey
Bill Cosby Salutes Alvin Ailey, directed by Kirk Browning; set, Tom H. John; costumes, Wanda Hayes; lighting, Timothy Hunter; assistant choreographer, Germaine Edwards; creative consultant, Peter Brown; conceived and supervised by George Faison; produced by Fais One Productions Inc. and Cates Films Inc.; Mr. Faison and Joe Cates, executive producers.