Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Dudley Williams was raised in Harlem and the Bronx. He danced for May O’Donnell and Martha Graham before he joined Alvin Ailey’s first standing company in 1964. Williams performed with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for more than four decades.

In high school, I danced for May O’Donnell. She was the first person who ever paid me for dancing--$5 for carfare. I quit dancing for a year. My mother would complain. “Get a job!” she’d say. I got a job at Macy’s. Shipping and receiving. It was around Christmas time. I don’t think those kids ever got their packages.

I was a student at Julliard for two years. In 1960, Martha Graham came to teach a masters class. After class, she invited me to her studio. I had a scholarship. I cleaned mirrors and I took classes. After a year, I was in the company.

In ‘61, I saw Alvin Ailey perform in Central Park. I said, “That’s what I want to do. It is now, it is of the time.” Alvin was always of the moment, where Graham was way, way yesteryear.

I joined Alvin’s company is 1964. Alvin paid $75 a week. I still have the receipts. I didn’t smoke, I didn’t drink. That was a fortune in 1964. That was the beginning of Alvin’s company. He had a company before, but it was Alvin calling up dancers and saying, “Hello? Can you dance with me? See you at rehearsal.”

We were busy trying to make our own groove. Alvin Ailey and his dancers were trying to make their mark. We went to London and Paris and made our mark. It was a mixed company and the subject matter that Alvin choreographed in “Blues Suite” and “Revelations” were things about the black experience.

We weren’t unionized. Alvin could get what he wanted out of us. We rehearsed until we dropped. We were all for it. Alvin gave us a stage to perform on. We took it, no matter how long we had to rehearse or perform.


James Randi said...

Hey, I'm trying to locate Dudley, who I haven't seen in many years. Can anyone put me in touch? I'm James Randi, and I can be reached at astonishing@randi.org

Thank you!

Michael Smanko said...

I've lost track of Dudley..... A friend of forty years.
Thanks for remembering him.