CNN's Tomeka Jones talks to Jamar Roberts, a dancer and resident choreographer for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who shares why he expresses his voice through dance.
As part of the free Ailey Forward first-ever virtual holiday season celebrating six decades of Revelations, comes tonight's world premiere of A Jam Session for Troubling Times on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's website. It's the latest work from acclaimed Ailey dancer and choreographer Jamar Roberts. During his Zoom chat with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle, Roberts talked about how the December 14 virtual world premiere (7:30pm) that marks the centennial (dubbed Bird100) of jazz revolutionary saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker.
In normal times, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater would now be encamped at New York City Center for the month, inspiring awe and bringing joy. This year, everything is virtual: a mix of archival and newly filmed video, supplemented with conversations, available free on the company’s website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.
Every December, the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre fill the City Center stage, night after night, with their joy, very, and technical prowess. Traditionally, most of those performances end with "Revelations," Ailey's signature work from 1960. Ailey's virtual season kicks off, on Dec. 2, with an online gala, featuring excerpts from "Revelations," filmed outdoors at Wave Hill, in the Bronx.
For 17 years, New York City Center’s annual Fall for Dance festival has relied on a winning formula. Naturally, this year is somewhat different. Still, it was the new pieces that dazzled. Jamar Roberts, the resident choreographer of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented a solo, “Morani/Mungu (Black Warrior/Black God).” A big, beautiful dancer, Mr. Roberts has no trouble impersonating a god, powerful enough for battle yet benevolent. But the dance also reveals his rarer gifts of subtlety and singular musicality.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is the latest company to move ahead with new work while performing arts spaces remain almost completely shut down in New York. The troupe's monthlong December season will include a world premiere from Jamar Roberts, Ailey's choreographer in residence, and the debut of a collaborative response to Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" by Matthew Rushing, Clifton Brown and Yusha-Marie Sorzano.
...At the end of May, in a commission from the Guggenheim’s “Works & Process” series, Jamar Roberts produced an extraordinary five-minute dance titled “Cooped.” He choreographed, designed, directed, performed, and shot (on an iPad) this “fever dream,” alone, in a basement, surrounded by shadows that seem to close in on him—an effect ingeniously created by a floor lamp and a flashlight. The tense music was composed, arranged, and performed (remotely) by David Watson (bagpipes) and Tony Buck (drums).
Since 2013, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has appeared annually at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. This year is the exception, somewhat. As part of its Ailey All Access series of online presentations, begun March 30 in the wake of the pandemic, the troupe has been working on ways to still offer a June season of a sort. Before the theater shutdown, live performances had been scheduled for June 10 to 14. Instead, starting this Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT, viewers at home will be able to stream a four-part mixed bill, performed on the Koch stage, the was filmed in 2015.
When Jamar Roberts, the resident choreographer of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, got a call from Works & Process at the Guggenheim Museum inviting him to contribute a video, he had been sheltering for a few weeks in a friend’s basement outside New York, not dancing or feeling at all inspired to dance. Since the museum closed, Works & Process, a long-running performance series, has been commissioning its alumni to make videos no longer than five minutes. Each Sunday and Monday, another installment is posted on YouTube. The playlist now includes more than a dozen, with dozens more on the way.
Jamar Roberts is an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater icon. He's danced with the company for more than 15 years, and at 6' 4", he cuts a powerful and immediately recognizable figure onstage. As a choreographer, he is prolific, passionate, and political—his most recent, instantly iconic piece for Ailey, Ode, is a meditation on the fragility of life in the age of gun violence. Though several of Roberts' planned premieres have been postponed because of the COVID-19 outbreak, we can't wait to see his works performed again.