For many New Yorkers, the holiday tradition includes watching an electrifying performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

For those who live to dance, Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison will teach an exclusive Ailey Classics Workshop Thursday, Jan. 5, at 7 p.m. The occasion is to mark what would’ve been Alvin Ailey’s 86th birthday.

The power of the artist, to obtain immortality, is woven into the complicated parts of what makes life, a life. To this end, Jamison will impart Ailey’s signature style, which—it’s important to note —changed the perception of American dance around the world, showing audiences that dance can truly be an expression of the spirit.

In imparting this knowledge, the trailblazer also tackled race and racism in his own, utterly unique way and we, as a people, are better for it.

The gift from the elders is shared in a two-hour workshop that is open to intermediate students. The objective is to demonstrate the subtle nuances and complexities that are found in some of Ailey’s critically acclaimed repertory.

Making this class possible will be former Ailey School student and current Ailey II member Khalia Campbell. She will be assisting Jamison as she breaks down vibrant and stirring choreography, empowering students to tap into their creativity, personal truths and passions in their performances.

“Dancers must engage with people, communicate with movement rather than words and bring their life experiences to the stage,” said Jamison. “My mission is to carry on the ethos that Alvin Ailey established, always remembering his belief that ‘dance came from the people and it must be delivered back to the people.’” 

Since 1965, Jamison has been part of the leadership role at Alvin Ailey, including becoming his muse.

For 15 years, she toured the world with the company and became an international dance star.

Ailey choreographed enduring roles for her, most notably the 17-minute tour-de-force solo, “Cry.” After taking a break to star in the Broadway musical “Sophisticated Ladies” and to form her own company, The Jamison Project, she returned to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989, when Ailey asked her to succeed him as artistic director.

In the two decades that followed, Jamison brought the company to unprecedented success.

A recipient of numerous honorary doctorate degrees, Jamison is a master teacher and the recipient of many awards, including a prime-time Emmy Award, a National Medal of the Arts, a “Bessie” Award, the Kennedy Center Honor and listing in “TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People.” In 1993, she published her autobiography “Dancing Spirit,” which was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jamison continues to dedicate herself to asserting the significance of the Ailey legacy, using dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.

This exclusive workshop takes place at Ailey’s home, The Joan Weill Center for Dance (405 W 55th St. at Ninth Avenue).

Participant fees are $45 per student and observation fees are $25 per person. To register or learn more about Ailey Extension, visit