Night Creature

The stars shine in Ailey’s homage to Duke Ellington


Alvin Ailey was inspired by the jazz music of Duke Ellington when he created Night Creature. Ellington’s “Suite for Orchestra,” is an example of jazz music’s exuberant energy and cool sophistication. When speaking about the club scene that went along with jazz music, Ellington said, “Night creatures, unlike stars, do not come OUT at night—they come ON, each thinking that, before the night is out, he or she will be the star.”

Ailey explores the rituals of nightlife in his dance, using a combination of modern dance, classical ballet, and jazz movements. Ailey’s dancers are “creatures,” resembling animal movements and communicating moods or ideas rather than telling a specific (human) story. For example, “cool cats” swagger and show off for one another with slinky steps, impressive demonstrations of skill and high-energy intensity.

The dancers are also nocturnal creatures competing for attention from potential partners in the evening hours. While this ensemble often dances together as a group, there is always a chance for a star to shine in Ailey’s night sky.

Ailey’s choreography for Night Creature includes three movements frequently seen in his works:

  • slow jazz walk, a low, sunken walk with feet and hips turned outward (an influence of modern dance)
  • boogie-woogie, a social dance with swing-style footwork and body lifts; usually danced to an upbeat style of blues music from the 1920s
  • arabesque, a ballet position on one leg in which the dancer extends a raised leg backward while stretching one or both arms forward


Editors & Producers

Lisa Resnick
Content Editor

Kenny Neal
Manager, Digital Education Resources


Company Dancers from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in Night Creature. Photo by Gert Krautbauer

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