Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey Dance Director, Has Miami Roots

Mar 6, 2015

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater director leads a masterclass with aspiring dancer at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.
Credit Patrick Farrell / Miami Herald

Robert Battle is a Miami native. He grew up in Liberty City. He went to school there, and this is where he learned to dance.

Battle leads one of the nation’s premier dance companies, The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City.

But for him, Miami will always be home, and that always factors into his work and inspiration, he says.

After four years as the director of the Ailey Company, Battle recently announced he would be choreographing his first piece for the company, and the dance has a Miami connection.

The yet-to-be-choreographed piece, called “The Attention of Souls,” is being commissioned by the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts in downtown Miami for the center's 10th anniversary. Battle says it’ll be an exploration of loss and new beginnings.

At a press conference in Miami to announce the news, he said,  “Anything that I do is inspired by my 

Robert Battle at the Arsht Center announcing the new commission choreographed by himself.
Credit Nadege Green / WLRN

  upbringing here.”

Battle didn’t go into too much more detail about the dance, but he did say it would be hopeful, adding, “But my name is Battle, so it has to have one.”

After the press conference, he headed downstairs to a dance studio. He changed out of his gray suit and purple tie into a loose black shirt and sweat pants.

He swapped his dress shoes for bare feet. He was back in his element to teach a modern dance class for aspiring dancers from his two alma maters --  Miami Northwestern High School and New World School of the Arts.

Between combinations, Battle dropped encouraging tidbits to inspire about 40 young dancers in the room.

“As you take your classes, remember that there’s a bigger lesson,” he said.

He seamlessly corrected a dancer’s posture and doled out both life lessons and dance lessons.

“You have to have a direction. A destination,” he told the young dancers.

Tenth-grader Diante Jenkins was one of the Miami Northwestern dance students at the workshop.

He said Battle’s story inspires him.

“His story connected because he’s from Liberty City. I was born and raised in Liberty City,” said Jenkins. “And, for him to have made it where he is now, that motivated me so I can keep going and fulfill my dreams."