| Dance |

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Robert Battle's Triumphant Return

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Lately, we have been reminded that dance is a fragile art form, as fleeting as life itself. Merce Cunningham's company disbanded at the end of 2011, a year and half after his death. And Pina, Wim Wenders' Oscar-nominated documentary about famed German choreographer Pina Bausch, is a memorial to the recent passing of a powerful force in contemporary performance. The alchemy of dance is so delicate that even the change of one key performer can make a distinct impact.

That's why the international creative community is so eagerly watching the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as it enters its third generation.

In 2011, Robert Battle was chosen as the company's new artistic director. This assignment of a lifetime is all the more impressive when seen in the context of Battle's background. At an early age, he was placed in the custody of his great aunt, who he refers to as his mother, and the family moved from Jacksonville to Miami's Liberty City neighborhood.

His great aunt's daughter, who also lived in the area, was an early

influence on his new neighborhood and on Battle. As he tells it, "she

was important in the community because she was a teacher of English for

many years in the public school system" and was also a cultural leader.

"She had a group called the Afro-Americans that performed in schools and

churches and theaters -- they performed poetry and song dealing with

the black experience. I was surrounded by the arts." He took classes at

the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, and eventually he landed at

the New World School of the Arts.

Battle is an innovator but not a

reckless renegade -- he clearly has reverence for the Ailey legacy.

"What's important to me," he says, "is to honor tradition but to move

briskly into the future." Already, Battle has broken new ground by

putting hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris's Home and Israeli-American

Ohad Naharin's Minus 16 in the repertoire of his inaugural season.


his stunning rise, Battle remains humbly indebted to those who have

helped along the way. "So many people, including my extended family...

took me in and supported me. I think because of that, I always worked

hard. I felt that I was given a chance and that I needed to utilize it."


return to Miami will be an emotionally charged homecoming. The Miami

dance community, including the many New World students he has influenced

and inspired, will be out in full force. Also on his guest list are

"teachers, family members, friends of the family, and people from the

church that I grew up in. I'm actually going to go to that church on

Sunday. They're going to do a whole program and I'm going to speak to

the young people. So it's going to be quite a celebration."


maiden footprint on the Ailey brand, his addition to the chemistry of

modern dance, will be apparent not only with Harris' Home on the schedule, but also with the troupe's first ever performance of Arden Court,

a piece from the seriously solid and non-fragile member of the

contemporary dance elements, Paul Taylor. And to keep it steady, both

programs in the performance schedule will include founder Ailey's Revelations.


Ailey American Dance Theater at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the

Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., from Thursday, Feb. 23 through

Sunday, Feb. 26. Program A includes Arden Court, Minus 16, and

Revelations and is performed on Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and

Sunday at 2 p.m.; Program B includes Home, Takademe, The Hunt, and

Revelations and is performed on Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2

p.m.; for more details and tickets, call 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org.

--Annie Hollingsworth, artburstmiami.com

Follow Cultist on Facebook and Twitter @CultistMiami.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.