Jamar Roberts performing in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" (photo by Paul Kolnik)

We Spent an Evening in the Studio with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jamar Roberts

This past Monday evening, dozens of dancers gathered in one of the top-floor studios of Alvin Ailey's home base in NYC. The studios feature stunning floor-to-ceiling windows, and as the sun set, the city sparkled around everyone, adding to the magical energy. As of late, there's been a special buzz in the air at AAADT—and for good reason: the company's 60th anniversary season is about to kick off on November 28. In honor of that milestone, company member Jamar Roberts hosted a contemporary workshop via Ailey Extension that was open to the public. DS had the chance to sit in on the inspiring evening, and chat with Roberts after it wrapped up. (And if you're in the NYC Tri-State area, and between the ages of 21–30, you're in luck: We're giving away a pair of tickets for Ailey's Young New York Night on November 29. Click here to enter!)


This was the inaugural workshop, as well as Roberts' first time teaching in NYC. "I teach all the time, but never in the city, so it was great that it was at Ailey," he says. His warm, unassuming presence immediately put everyone at ease as he led participants through a dynamic warmup, repeating a phrase that began with dancers carving shapes with their arms, and ended once the entire body was engaged, sinking into a deep plié and shifting weight from one foot to another.

There were lots of references to moves from Members Don't Get Weary (Roberts' first work for AAADT that premiered in 2017 and makes its return this season) sprinkled throughout the combos that dancers learned. According to Roberts, there's a palpable excitement among the company's dancers this season, thanks to the 60th anniversary. But when it came time to start prepping Members Don't Get Weary for its second run, it felt super-familiar, despite all the pressure. "It feels exactly the same. I never felt pressure when I was making the work, and I don't feel it now. It still feels like I'm just playing around in the studio with my friends. There was never a negative vibe, just a lot of fun," he says.

AAADT dancers in Roberts' "Members Don't Get Weary" (photo by Paul Kolnik)

It's safe to say that same element of fun was a big theme of this workshop—Roberts' teaching style is every dancer's dream. He offered corrections via helpful cues and demonstrations ("Literally eat the space up!" was his advice when explaining a combo that involved lots of traveling across the floor), and everyone was chill, loose, and totally responsive to Roberts' movement style. "That was the tricky part about prepping for this," he says. "I don't teach a codified style—it's just me, my movement. It's innate. So that makes it hard to break down and put into a succinct exercise." He prepared by spending hours in the studio alone the day before, working out phrases, combos, and steps between his own crazy rehearsal schedule. "I absolutely hate the feeling of being unprepared," he says. (#Same, Jamar, same.)

In the end, Roberts had just one wish for his students that night (and IMHO, it's a perfect piece of advice for any dancer spending time in a workshop or studio): "I hope they felt like this was a breath of fresh air, a time to break out of their shells, to explore how they want to move in their bodies. I hope they felt free."

Latest Posts


Photo by Jayme Thornton

How Paloma Garcia-Lee Manifested Her Dream Role, in Steven Spielberg’s "West Side Story"

On a rainy day in November 2018, Paloma Garcia-Lee got a call from her agent that brought her to her knees outside her New York City apartment: She was going to play Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.

The call came after a lengthy audition process with Spielberg in the room, and the role, originated by Wilma Curley on Broadway in 1957 and later portrayed by Gina Trikonis in the 1961 film, was her biggest dream. In fact, it's something Garcia-Lee says she manifested from the day plans for the movie were announced in January 2018. "I wrote in my journal: 'I am playing Graziella in Steven Spielberg's West Side Story.'"

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo by @mediabyZ

Am I Less Committed to Dance Because I Have Other Passions? (Spoiler Alert: NO!)

Let's face it—dance is HARD, and in order to achieve your goals, you need to be committed to your training. "Still, there's a fine line between being committed and being consumed." Dancers can, and should, have interests outside of the studio.

Not convinced? We talked with dance psychologist Dr. Lucie Clements and two multifaceted dancers, Kristen Harlow (a musical theater dancer pursuing a career in NYC and Kentucky) and Kallie Takahashi (a dancer in her final year at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts), and got the inside scoop on how having hobbies outside of dance can inform your artistry, expand your range and help prevent burnout.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Photo courtesy of Brittany Conigatti

Go Behind the Scenes of Annie Live! With Brittany Conigatti

Unwrap your candy canes, pour the hot chocolate and round up your fellow theater lovers: NBC is kicking off the Christmas season with its latest live-broadcast TV musical. Annie Live! premieres December 2 and features a star-studded cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Tituss Burgess, Megan Hilty and, as the title character, young phenom Celina Smith.

Luckily, people got a taste of what the special will entail when the cast kicked off the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a performance last week. But since you’re never fully dressed without a Dance Spirit exclusive, we caught up with Brittany Conigatti, one of the young orphans and adult ensemble members in the show, to learn what it was like putting together a large-scale live production for the small screen.

The cast of Annie Live! poses for a group photo. The cast of Annie Live!Photo courtesy of Conigatti


Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search