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


Because there's never been a better time to binge-watch "Bunheads" (via Freeform)

5 of the Danciest TV Shows Streaming Right Now (and Where to Stream Them)

We're about two months into #SocialDisDancing, and let's be real—while we all wish we were spending every spare minute stretching, cross-training, or taking online classes, sometimes we just need to Netflix and chill.

We figure, if you're going to be watching TV anyways, why not make it dancy TV? After all, watching pros dance on-screen is basically dance class homework...or at least we'll say it is. Here are five of the danciest TV shows for you to watch—and where to find them.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Larry Saperstein on "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" (Disney+/Fred Hayes)

Celebrate National Tap Dance Day with "HSM" Star Larry Saperstein

Happy National Tap Dance Day, friends! We're marking the occasion by catching up with one of our favorite talented young tappers: Larry Saperstein. The "High School Musical: The Musical: The Series" star began taking tap classes at 12 years old, studying at the American Tap Dance Foundation, where he quickly discovered his love for the art. These days, he's putting his skills to good use as Big Red on "HSMTMTS." (Who could forget that iconic moment at the end of season one where he broke out into a tap routine that shook us all!)

We chatted with Larry about why he loves tap so much, and why the art form needs more and better representation in the dance world (and the world world).

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

2020 Dance Grads: We Want to Put You on Our Cover!

Hello, all you members of the great Dance Class of 2020. With the world on lockdown, this hasn't been the graduation season you expected. You likely weren't able to go to prom; your commencement ceremonies have probably been delayed or canceled; and you might not have been able to take your planned-for final bow onstage.

Since you're missing out on so much, we'd like to give you a virtual ovation, to recognize all you've accomplished. And what's the highest honor we can bestow? The cover of Dance Spirit!

Here's the plan:

  • If you're a high school or college senior dancer, use this form to submit your information and dance portrait.
  • Each day during the month of May, we'll create a digital Dance Spirit cover starring one of you, chosen at random—31 covers in total.
  • At the end of the month, we'll create a "commencement video" featuring even more of your submitted dance photos.
  • 100 of you, selected by lottery, will also receive free one-year subscriptions to the print magazine.

Merde, 2020 graduates, as you dance your way into the future!

High School and College Senior Dancers: Submit Your Photo Here

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search