- Faith & Family
Robert Battle says he loves the rapid pace of life that comes with being the artistic director for one of the world’s most celebrated dance companies — the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. He brings his troupe to Miami, his hometown, with great fanfare, two new pieces, including a world premier and will even take his dancers into several public schools in Liberty City. But his first stop will be at his old church, Wactor Temple AME Zion Church, where his mother still plays the piano. That’s because for Battle, who has traveled around the world, “there’s no place like home.”
“At this point in my life, I am exactly where I am supposed to be and there’s always that wonderful sense of anticipation,” he said. “Being creative and the leader, I’m constantly trying to think ahead, plotting the next season, thinking of the dancers and the challenges that I want to give to them. But I have been following this path since my birth. I was born facing challenges including being a bowlegged little boy that wanted to dance. We all must face our own hurdles. As for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the company has never looked better.”
This year marks Battle’s inaugural season as artistic director and the program for the company’s four-day performance at the Adrienne Arsht Center, which opens Thursday, Feb. 23rd, promises to push the dancers to new creative heights. One of Battle’s first creations, “Takedeme,” which is a three-minute dance “packed with plenty of punch that will remind viewers of the showmanship of Michael Jackson, will be featured, as will two company premiers – one choreographed by Ohad Naharin, an American-Israeli dance legend and the other by Rennie Harris entitled “Home” that is set to gospel house music.
“We lost our founder, Alvin Ailey, in 1989 to AIDS and “Home” honors his life,” Battle said. “Back then there was so much shame associated with the disease. The dance is a positive message about the tenacity of the human spirit as examined through the lens of hip-hop.”
Talent, talent and more incredible talent
Look out for Kirvin James Boyd — this year’s poster boy whose athletic leap from “Revelations” is featured on promotional pieces of art for the new season. Battle says, “You can sense his [Boyd’s] appetite for movement as a language and the power in his dance. He is a force to be reckoned with.”
Boyd dances lead roles in all of the new works. And then there is Ailey’s signature piece, “Revelations.” One of the four female dancers who rotates as a principal dancer is Renee Robinson. She celebrates her 30th season with Alvin Ailey.
“When I first started there were obvious limitations for Black dancers particularly our ability to study certain techniques — but now the sky’s the limit,” she said. “I have done several roles in “Revelations” but most often I am the dancer carrying the umbrella in “Wade in the Water.” I feel blessed to be healthy enough to do this big dance for so many years. It was choreographed in 1960 and our culture was very different then. It’s amazing that it still speaks to today’s generation. That was the genius of Alvin Ailey. He wanted to show American society how beautiful Black people are and that we are a reflection of God’s humanity.”
By D. Kevin McNeir