Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris Talks Premieres and New Roles

In a company of formidable soloists, who also work together as a flawless group, Jacquelin Harris manages to pull focus. Even though she's a younger and newer member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Harris blends in when she needs to, and stands out when it's called for, like a seasoned pro.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris (photo by Andrew Eccles)

She took a moment from her busy schedule to talk to Dance Spirit about artistic director Robert Battle's upcoming premiere for the company—his first since he's been in charge.

Dance Spirit: So, you're in the first cast of Mr. Battle's Awakening! What has that process been like?

Jacquelin Harris: It's been amazing. Mr. Battle is a genius with the counts. It'll be a six, then a four, then a ten, but with his direction it all comes together in the music (composed by John Mackey).

DS: What has been your favorite moment?

JH: Hearing the music for the first time. It sounds like an orchestra, and Mr. Battle was at the front of the room saying "You, here! You, there!" He was painting beautiful pictures with our bodies while his rehearsal director was frantically writing everything down!

DS: What's it like to have something created on you?

JH: Since we're a rep company, we do a lot of different things and need to be able to switch gears in our head. But it's so nice to have the work made on you because then you can receive personal feedback. Mr. Battle tends to get really excited and jump right into creating. He wants specific things but he still tells us to look like ourselves.

DS: What is your role in Awakening?

JH: There's a lot of group work in the dance that invokes community, finding a leader without being disruptive and being unique while also being cohesive. My character tends to be alone a lot. I'm not the soloist, but Mr. Battle will ask me to fall or crawl—for just one second I have to branch out and do my own thing. But people pick me back up again. I haven't decided yet if I'm the weakest link or the strongest link!

I think the role makes sense for me. I'm a newer member of the company, so I'm inexperienced in the dance world we live in and I look for a lot of guidance. But at the same time I don't consider myself to be someone who tries to stand alone outside of the pack. I'm into my community.

Want a chance to see Jacqueline perform Awakening? Enter here for a chance to win two tickets to opening night!

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