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Robert Battle: From Liberty City to the Big Apple

Robert Battle: From Liberty City to the Big Apple



Introduction to Robert Battle:  12:33 min.  Interview:  Raymond Elman. Videographer:  Manuel Perez-Trujillo. Photo: Andrew Eccles.  Music:  “Simple Gifts” performed by David Molho.  Recorded:  2/19/2015, Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County.


Dancer, choreographer ROBERT BATTLE became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Mr. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization.

A frequent choreographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. The Company’s current repertory includes his ballets AwakeningNo Longer Silent, and The Hunt. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Mauro Bigonzetti, Hope Boykin, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, Matthew Rushing, Paul Taylor, and Christopher Wheeldon, Mr. Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.

Mr. Battle’s journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Florida. He showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program, before moving on to Miami’s New World School of the Arts, under the direction of Daniel Lewis and Gerri Houlihan, and finally to the dance program at The Juilliard School, under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy, where he met his mentor, Carolyn Adams. He danced with The Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001, and also set his choreography on that company starting in 1998. Mr. Battle then founded his own Battleworks Dance Company, which made its debut in 2002 in Düsseldorf, Germany, as the U.S. representative to the World Dance Alliance’s Global Assembly. Battleworks subsequently performed extensively at venues including The Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Mr. Battle was honored as one of the “Masters of African-American Choreography” by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005, and he received the prestigious Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 2007. In 2014 he received an honorary doctorate from The University of the Arts. Mr. Battle was named a 2015 Visiting Fellow for The Art of Change, an initiative by the Ford Foundation. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed a number of high-profile organizations, including the United Nations Leaders Programme and the UNICEF Senior Leadership Development Programme.

— Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater



The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is returning to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts from Thursday, February 23 through Sunday, February 26.  

This year, Ailey is presenting several NEW works including:

  • r-Evolution, Dream (a world premiere by veteran Ailey dancer Hope Boykin which is inspired by the speeches and sermons of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)
  • Ella (a company premiere by Robert Battle that honors Ella Fitzgerald during her birth centennial year)
  • Untitled America (a world premiere that shines a spotlight on the impact of the prison system on African American families.)


r EVOLUTION: 2:46 min.

r Evolution, Dream behind the scenes part 1



2017 Miami Engagement Program:

Thursday, February 23, 2017 at 8:00pm

Deep / Walking Mad / Ella, Revelations

Friday, February 24, 2017 at 8:00pm

Night Creature, In/Side / Untitled America / Revelations

Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 2:00pm – Family Matinee 

The Winter in Lisbon / r-Evolution, Dream. / Ella, Revelations

Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 8:00pm

Deep / Walking Mad / Ella, Revelations

Sunday, February 26, 2017 at 2:00pm

The Winter in Lisbon / r-Evolution, Dream. / Ella, Revelations



Behind the Scenes of Untitled America



The videos below are organized by Success Factor and run between 30 seconds and 13 minutes. Click on any video. You must be connected to the Internet to view the videos.




We attended the Miami premiere of your piece called “Awakening,” which was magnificent.  Did the movement come from the early part of your career?



There is so much personal symbolism in “Awakening.”  How much do you expect the audience to understand?



When did Erwin Schulhoff write the music you use in “No Longer Silent,” and why did you use it?



How did you evolve into your role as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater?



What are your thoughts about the Miami dance community? 



Please describe some of your community outreach programs in Miami.


SERENDIPITY:  3:00 min.

What is the role of serendipity in dance?



I’ve heard you communicate very effectively with an audience.  Was there a moment when you realized that you have a gift for oratory?