Home Features Choreographer Jamar Roberts Talks The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Arsht...

Choreographer Jamar Roberts Talks The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Arsht Center

Jamar Roberts with Corrin Mitchell and Sarah Daley Perdomo behind the scenes, Ode

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, one of the world’s most beloved dance companies, is celebrating its 65thanniversary season. The engagement will showcase the passionate spirit and extraordinary technique of the Company’s dancers.

The season’s repertory includes exciting new works commissioned especially for Ailey: Amy Hall Garner’s rousing, high-spirited tribute to her grandfather, CENTURY; Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s dreamlike reminiscence of romance, Me, Myself and You; new productions of Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit, Jamar Roberts’ Ode and Solo by Hans van Manen; and, as always, Alvin Ailey’s must-see American masterpiece Revelations. Since its debut in 1960, Revelations has been moving audiences with its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring music, evoking timeless themes of determination, hope and transcendence. An intimate reflection of Ailey’s childhood memories of growing up in the South and attending services at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Texas, Revelations pays homage to the rich cultural heritage of the African American community and explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition.

In 2008, a U.S. Congressional resolution designated the company “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world” that celebrates the African American cultural experience and preserves and enriches America’s modern dance heritage. Although he created 79 ballets over his lifetime, Ailey maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work.

For those of you who have not had the chance to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Company perform, I urge you to go and see them as they tell stories through dance compositions that reaches your heart and soul.

Jamar Roberts

It was a pleasure to sit down with the choreographer of Ode and former Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts for this exclusive Hotspots interview. 

At what age did you begin performing?

I started dancing at 10 and started performing professionally at Ailey 2 at 18. There was a girl who invited me to an after-school dance club, and I did it and never stopped. 

What was your first professional dance gig?

It was probably Ailey 2 right after high school. 

When did you know performing would be your career?

It took me a long time to come to that decision. I think about 4 years into dancing full time is when I realized I wanted to take this seriously and make this my career. 

How did it feel when you got hired to be an Alvin Ailey dancer?

Ailey 2 is like a pre professional/professional company that Alvin created to get dancers prepared for professional dancing. There is a separate audition process to become an Alvin Ailey dancer. The audition process was filled with amazing dancers, so I felt like I won the game when I got hired. It was the beginning of everything. 

What is your all-time favorite dance piece that you performed?

There isn’t one single piece, but rather there are multiple pieces. However, if you forced me to pick, there is a piece called “Masekela Langage,” it’s one of Ailey’s more theatrical works and there is tons of characterizations and lots of props. I loved being immersed in that world he created.

Did you always like being a choreographer or when did you take an interest in it?

That another thing that just kind of happened. Angel Frazier Logan was my dance teacher, but she was very passionate about choreography, and I inherited her practice of generating movement and coming up with new pieces. I adopted it even though I wasn’t thinking of being a choreographer. I loved the act of creating and movement and this led to a full-fledged choreographic career. 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey’s Revelations

Tell me about the process of choreographing Ode?

It’s a very long process, and it was originally created for an all-male cast. It’s a tribute to the victims of gun violence. It was made during the summer of all the reports of black men being shot by police. It was very hard to choreograph but it was a great process. For me it was a bold and courageous piece to make, and the content was very close to the cast. It is now being performed by an all-female cast who are incredible. 

Do you have an all-time favorite piece you choreographed?  

I think Ode is my favorite piece as its exemplary of what I stand for as an artist conceptually and esthetically. 

Describe yourself in 3 words?

Caring, deep, and generous. 

What do you do for fun?

I read a lot and listen to music and love to have dinners and hang out with my friends. I also love to see shows. 

What should our readers expect from this production of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater?

I think you should expect to see humanity at its highest level. If one of the reasons to be on this planet is to connect, this company does this 100% in so many ways.

To learn more about Jamar, go to his website: Jamarroberts.com.

To purchase tickets to see The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Arsht Center go to: ArshtCenter.org.

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