Alvin Aileys artistic director returns to spiritual home
Black History is celebrated at Wactor Temple African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church each year with pride and for good reason. The AME Zion Church, also known as the Freedom Church due to its dedication to racial justice, counts among its early members such historical Black figures as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass,according to Pastor Teneramie C. Jimenez. However, on Sunday, Feb. 26th, the church honored homegrown talent when Robert Battle, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, returned to his church home as the featured speaker for their annual celebration. Jimenez praised Battle: The church has been holding a Black History program since forever, but this [was] the biggest and best that we have ever had because of the magnitude of Robert Battle. Raised in Liberty City, Battle attended Wactor Temple during his youth. This [church] is where I learned to be courageous, Battle told the Miami Times.
That courage served him well in a lifetime that includes many accomplishments. As one presenter noted, Battles life is an example of Black history in the making. Battles talents and dedication to the arts are the basis for a career that led him to become a valued member of the Parsons Dance Company and later to be deemed as one of the Masters of African American Choreography by the Kennedy Center. Throughout his journey, his faith has remained an important part of his life, even influencing his dancing and choreography. In some way, I feel that Im preaching by taking dance to the people, said the choreographer, who premiered his own troupe, Battleworks Dance Company in 2002. Many members of the audience found his words to be inspiring. Renee Robinson, a friend of Battles who has been a dancer at the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Company for 30 years, said, It was wonderful to hear the stories about [Battle] before he ever became artistic director. The celebration also included a dramatic reading, liturgical dancing by the group, Passage 2 Womanhood and Hot 105 FMs Tracy Cloyd Young, who served as a presenter. By Kaila Heardkheard@miamitimesonline.com