About Ailes Gilmour
Ailes Gilmour (January 27, 1912 - April 16, 1993) was a Japanese American dancer who was one of the young pioneers of the American Modern Dance movement of the 1930s. She was one of the first members of Martha Graham's dance company. Ailes' older brother was sculptor Isamu Noguchi.
Ailes, born 1912 in Yokohama, Japan, and her brother Isamu were born to different fathers. Their mother, Léonie Gilmour was an American Journalist living in Japan, working as an English teacher and writer. Léonie met Isamu's father, Yone Noguchi while Yone was living in New York where he was trying to get his poetry published. Isamu was born in Los Angeles after Yone had gone back to Japan to teach English at Keio University. At the time Léonie believed they were married, but when she got to Tokyo, she learned Yone had another family.
Ailes' son later found a page in an old notebook that might have referred to Ailes' father. However, the corner of the paper where a signature would be written had been torn off, apparently to conceal his identity. Ailes said in a biographical statement for Marion Horosko's book about Martha Graham, that her father was a Japanese poet. Leonie chose the name Ailes for her daughter from a poem Beauty's a Flower by Moira O'Neill, the pseudonym of Agnes Shakespeare Higginson. It is a striking coincidence that the words in that poem seemed to predict Ailes' career as a dancer. Moira wrote, "Ailes was a girl that stepped on two bare feet..."
Ailes grew up in a little Japanese style house that Léonie had constructed in Chigasaki, a seaside town near Yokohama. In 1920, Ailes and her mother returned to America, living first in San Francisco and then settling in New York City. Léonie sent Ailes to the Ethical Culture elementary school, founded in 1876 by Felix Adler and known as a progressive school. Leonie herself had attended the predecessor to the Ethical Culture elementary school when it was called the Workingman's School. For high school, Léonie chose the Cherry Lawn School in Connecticut for her daughter. It was a boarding school that was known for its progressive, coeducational program. The director and founder of the school was Fred Goldfrank.
In 1928, Ailes was the literary editor of The Cherry Pit, the Cherry Lawn's student magazine. After she graduated from high school in 1929, she went on to the Neighborhood Playhouse to study dance and performing arts as a scholarship student. There she met the young Martha Graham and joined her new professional dance troupe. Ailes told Marion Horosko that she introduced Martha Graham to her brother, Isamu, in 1929. Martha had a bust made of herself in bronze.
In 1948, Ailes married anthropologist Herbert J. Spinden.
During the Depression Era, dancers like Ailes and artists like Isamu struggled to find work. In 1932, when Radio City Music Hall opened, Ailes performed at the debut with Graham's company. Their work, Choric Patterns, lasted on stage for just one week. Ailes ruefully observed to Marion Horosko that Radio City Music Hall could succeed only when it became a movie theater with Rockettes.
In the 1930s, Ailes Gilmour appeared on dance programs with a dancer-choreographer Bill Matons. Matons was the Director of the "experimental unit" of the New Dance League, which evolved from the Workers Dance League between 1931 and 1935. Among the group's later-to-become-famous members were male dancer-choreographers like José Limón and Charles Weidman. In 1937, Ailes and Matons performed in a Works Progress Administration (WPA) recital at the Brooklyn Museum. In 1939, they were in Adelante, a WPA-sponsored Broadway musical. Also in 1937, Matons did the choreography for the Lenin Peace pageant at Madison Square Garden.
On April 16, 1993, Ailes Gilmour Spinden died in Santa Fe, New Mexico at the age of eighty-one.