Dance20and20 Human20 Flourishing20with20 Judith20 Jamison2002
Nov 22, 2021

Dance and Human Flourishing with Judith Jamison (podcast)

How dance and other forms of artistic expression are fed by and offer a path to community, connection, joy, and flourishment.

By Templeton Staff

In 1964, at just 21 years old, acclaimed dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison made her dance debut in New York with the American Ballet Theater. She soon joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, eventually becoming the company’s principal dancer, then its artistic director.

In this episode of the Stories of Impact podcast, Jamison shares her insights into the power of dance to facilitate connections between audience and performer that encourage both to flourish, as well as the links between the arts, community, challenges, joy, and human flourishing. 

As a dancer and international star, Judith Jamison has toured the world and mingled with musicians and dancers from a variety of backgrounds. These meetings informed her understanding of the root of humanity’s shared expression. “They were dancing for rain, and for babies, and for crops. And so, there’s a connection there, that it turned into performance, and got thrilled and flourished in that kind of way.”

There’s a universality to humankind’s trials and tribulations. Inhabiting the full experience of life from sorrow to celebration is a key to flourishing. Jamison prompts us to “Use it!” — to channel personal or collective struggles and experiences into artistic expression. With that, you’ll find a bond with others. Citing the signature work of jazz-dance choreographer Alvin Ailey, Revelations, as an example of this, Jamison exclaims “When you go on the entire journey through the sadness, through everything that life offers... from struggle, everything in between, and then you finish with joy — not happy, but with joy, genuine JOY — that’s flourishing. That means we’ve made a connection with you.”

Jamison revels in delivering experiences that activate the human spirit. “To thrill the audience, move them, to move them one direction or the other direction, to have a moment of connecting with who you are as a human being —  that, to me, is what anything in the arts is supposed to do.” Motivating change is the responsibility of the performer with each interaction. It’s a core value that Alvin Ailey instilled in his students and a tradition that lives on through Jamison’s current approach. “...we’re there to just make them feel different. So when they leave the theater, then you know, you kind of walk on air, when you’re leaving the theater, we’ve had a celebration.”

Read the transcript from the interview conducted by journalist Richard Sergay, presented by writer/producer Tavia Gilbert. Featuring: Judith Jamison, dancer/choreographer, Artistic Director Emerita, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. 

Built upon the award-winning video series of the same name, Templeton World Charity Foundation’s “Stories of Impact” podcast features stories of new scientific research on human flourishing that translate discoveries into practical tools. Bringing a mix of curiosity, compassion, and creativity, journalist Richard Sergay and host Tavia Gilbert shine a spotlight on the human impact at the heart of cutting-edge social and scientific research projects supported by TWCF.