Three is definitely a charm for Robert Battle, artistic director for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who is celebrating his third anniversary leading the company recognized by a U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World.”
AAADT has performed for over 23 million people in 48 states and in 71 countries on six continents, celebrating the African American cultural experience and the American modern dance tradition. The tour stop in Atlanta from Thursday, Feb. 13 through Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014, will be one filled with excitement with the world premiere of “Lift” by choreographer Aszure Barton; a presentation of “Pas de Duke” (circa 1976), which was created by Alvin Ailey or Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov; as well as “Night Creature” and “The River” which are both choreographed to jazz legend Duke Ellington’s music.
Here, the Miami native shares some fun and interesting facts.
How long have you been a dancer?
I have been a dancer all my life, since I was born bow-legged. I had to learn a few steps. I saw an AAADT student performance while growing up. I saw the company live for the first time doing “Revelations” and it’s when I started taking it seriously. I was about 12 years old.
What is your favorite piece in the repertoire?
It’s hard to say favorite. “Revelations,” created in 1960 by Mr. Ailey, one of the most powerful dances ever created, is my all-time favorite. There are so many works in the repertory; it’s like having children and deciding which is your favorite. It’s hard to do. My favorite is seeing my amazing 30 dancers take on the task and breathe new life.
What do you like most about touring internationally?
Clapping to the music, standing ovations and the companies having to do encores … to have a visceral response in a place like Russia that seems so far away from home is quite thrilling. Dance is a universal language. That’s the wonderful thing about touring, we get to engage with audiences all over the world and bring them the joy of dance. Part of the touring is about delivering joy.
Why did you want this job?
I have never been asked that question. But who wouldn’t [want this opportunity]? I actually don’t think of it as a job. Having grown up going to church every Sunday and knowing a little something about taking “a leap of faith,” like coming to New York to attend Juilliard, then Judith Jamison asking me to lead this company, the one that made the biggest impact on me at age 12 when I attending my first performance in Miami – it’s definitely my calling.