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Sylvia Waters

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Information about Sylvia Waters

Profile image of Sylvia Waters

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Artistic Director
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black, Blue, Red, White
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream, Vegetables
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Italy, Turkey
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
1/22/1940
Birth Location:
New York, New York

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Artistic Director
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Black, Blue, Red, White
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream, Vegetables
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Italy, Turkey
Favorite Quote:
None

Birthplace

Born:
1/22/1940
Birth Location:
New York
See how Sylvia Waters is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Artistic director and dancer Sylvia Waters was born in New York on January 22, 1940. She began dancing in junior high school and joined an after school dance group when she was twelve years old. Waters went on to attend The Juilliard School, where she studied with Martha Graham, José Limón, and Anthony Tudor. She received her B.S. degree from Juilliard in 1962, continuing her studies at the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance.

Waters began dancing with Donald McKayle’s dance company before touring Europe, performing in Langston Hughes’ Black Nativity in 1964. Waters then settled in Paris, France for three years, where she appeared on television and danced in the Paris Opera Ballet under Michel Descombey. After performing at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, in Maurice Bejart’s Ballet of the Twentieth Century, at which Alvin Ailey’s Revelations was also performed, Waters returned to the United States and began touring as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company. In 1974, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, later renamed Ailey II, was founded in order to help Ailey dance students transition into the professional world. A year after its creation, Waters was hired as the director. Ailey II has since toured all over the country as one of the most successful companies in the United States.

Waters has received numerous awards, including an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York at Oswego, the Dance Magazine Award, Syracuse University’s Women of Distinction Award, and the Legacy Award from the twentieth Annual International Association of Blacks in Dance Festival. She has also served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, and has worked as a guest lecturer at Harvard University in 2001.

Waters lives in New York, New York.

Sylvia Waters was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 27, 2010 and October 4, 2016.

See how Sylvia Waters is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Waters' interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters describes her parents' backgrounds and occupations
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes her childhood experiences in Harlem, New York
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters describes her experience on her maternal grandparents' farm in Onancock, Virginia
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters describes her parents' educations and how they met
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters talks about her childhood interest in music and pageantry
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters describes her experience in a modern dance club in junior high school
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sylvia Waters describes her modern dance classes at Evander Childs High School and at the New Dance Group Studio
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sylvia Waters describes meeting Alvin Ailey and seeing him dance
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Sylvia Waters describes auditioning for The Juilliard School in New York City, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters describes her teacher's and friend's reactions to her acceptance at The Juilliard School in New York City, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters describes her experience at The Juilliard School in New York City, New York and performing with pickup companies
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters remembers the first performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes The Juilliard School in New York City, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters comments on her mentors at The Juilliard School in New York City, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters describes her 1962 graduation from The Juilliard School in New York City, New York
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters describes her jobs after graduating from The Juilliard School in New York City, New York and joining the cast of "Black Nativity"
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters talks about her experience living in Paris, France and auditioning for various film and theater productions
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Sylvia Waters talks about the collegial relationships among black performers in the mid-1960s
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Sylvia Waters talks about the black expatriates she met in Europe
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Sylvia Waters talks about meeting Josephine Baker
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Slating of Sylvia Waters' interview, session 2
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters describes her time in Paris, France
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters recalls meeting Langston Hughes
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters talks about her role in 'Black Nativity'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters remembers the European tour of 'Black Nativity'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters describes how she was treated in Europe
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters recalls her work with European dance companies
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters talks about joining the Ballet of the 20th Century dance company in Brussels, Belgium
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Sylvia Waters describes her work with Donald McKayle's dance company
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters talks about living in Paris, France
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters remembers her experiences with racism in Portugal
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters describes a racist American soldier in Portugal
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters recalls labor strikes in Paris, France
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters talks about her opportunities to join the Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters talks about her performances in Mexico City during the 1968 Summer Olympic Games
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters remembers being unexpectedly hired by Alvin Ailey
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters recalls professional dancers at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls tension between the Portuguese and Angolan migrants
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters recalls joining the Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters talks about everyday life as a dancer
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes the body types of dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters talks about artistic expression in dance
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters remembers performance venues in New York City
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters recalls the disbandment of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters recalls the U.S. Department of State's intervention on behalf of the Ailey Dance Company
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls the censorship of dance performances when traveling to the Soviet Union
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters remembers her experiences touring in the Soviet Union
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters talks about the Ailey American Dance Theater's return to New York City after touring globally
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters remembers the birth of her son
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters talks about her promotion to director of Ailey II
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters recalls her participation in 'Ailey Celebrates Ellington'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters remembers touring with Ailey II
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls her feelings about transitioning to artistic director of Ailey II
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters talks about directing 'Revelations'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters talks about the challenges of running Ailey II
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters describes touring with Ailey II
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters recalls the death of Alvin Ailey
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sylvia Waters remembers the aftermath of Alvin Ailey's death
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sylvia Waters describes the development of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sylvia Waters talks about her oral history archival work
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sylvia Waters recalls successful students trained at Ailey II
  • Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sylvia Waters recalls leaving the Ailey American Dance Theater
  • Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sylvia Waters reflects on her legacy
  • Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sylvia Waters shares her advice for aspiring dancers
  • Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sylvia Waters reflects upon her life