Barry Jenkins to Direct Biopic on Legendary Choreographer Alvin Ailey

Barry Jenkins (Credit: Shutterstock)

Barry Jenkins is set to direct a biopic about the iconic choreographer Alvin Ailey.

Jenkins, who directed Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, signed on to the project just months after Fox Searchlight announced in March 2018 that the film had the full support of the Ailey Organization.

Fox Searchlight has the rights to Jennifer Dunning’s 1996 biography Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance, and producers will work alongside Artistic Director Robert Battle and Artistic Director Emerita, Judith Jamison, to bring Ailey’s story and choreography to the screen,” Deadline reported Monday.

The film will cover the late choreographer’s life, including his founding of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. The company was inspired by his mentor, dancer-choreographer Lester Horton, and was one the first multiracial dance troupes in the United States.

Ailey’s renowned company produced many notable works, like Blues Suite, a homage to blues songs, and Cry, an effort he dedicated to his mother and African-American women everywhere.

The choreographer created 79 ballets in his lifetime, working for the American Ballet Theater, Joffrey Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and Royal Danish Ballet, to name a few institutions.

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Ailey’s company quickly became one of the most respected and popular modern dance companies in the world.

Ailey went on to found the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, later renamed the Ailey School, that provides underserved communities in the New York City area with access to arts and dance programs.

The lauded dancer, who is best known for popularizing African-American modern dance, received multiple honors for his work throughout the years. President Barack Obama awarded Ailey a posthumous Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014, years after his death from AIDS-related complications in December 1989.

As for the details behind the biopic, Julian Breece (When They See Us), is writing the script, while Judy Kinberg, Adele Romanski, Rachel Cohen, and Alicia Keys are producing.

Jenkins brings a level of star power to the work, just having nabbed multiple Oscar nominations for If Beale Street Could Talk, an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel of the same name, while Moonlight took home best picture in 2017.