Jamar Roberts in Talley Beatty's Stack-Up. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Ailey

Why This Ailey Dancer Dreams of Dancing with Ellen DeGeneres

Jamar Roberts has long been one of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's most thrilling performers, bringing his sinuous power to whatever the company's wide-ranging repertory throws at him. Last season, Roberts' own movement became a part of that repertory: His blues-inspired Members Don't Get Weary, set to the music of John Coltrane, received rave reviews, and returns this week as part of the company's 60th Anniversary season at New York City Center.

We caught up with Roberts for our "Spotlight" series:


What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers? 

That all dancers are flexible/acrobatic and love to be in the spotlight. I'm more reserved and have had to cultivate an affinity for being in front of the camera.

What other career would you like to try? 

Graphic novelist or animator. I also enjoy drawing and fashion, and designed the costumes for Members Don't Get Weary.

Do you have a pre-performance ritual?

Listening to music, especially jazz, helps center me, as do yoga exercises.

What was the last dance performance you saw?

A Works & Process performance at the Guggenheim Museum featuring English National Ballet in Akram Khan's Giselle.

Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?

Eating!

What's the most-played song on your phone?

"See You Again" (feat. Kali Uchis) by Tyler The Creator. Music is a must for the daily subway ride to and from Brooklyn.

Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?

Ellen DeGeneres. It was so much fun when she came to The Ailey Studios in 2007 for a segment with us. Another person is singer Emily King. I went to her see her in concert recently and it was amazing!

What's your favorite book?

Anything by Octavia Butler. Specifically, Kindred. Right now, I'm reading an autobiography of Charles Mingus, Beneath the Underdog.

What's the first item on your bucket list?

I don't have a bucket list.

Where did you last vacation?

I've never taken a vacation, but I have seen the world touring with Ailey. When I have time off, I return to Miami to teach and choreograph at the school where I studied growing up.

What's your go-to cross-training routine?

Yoga is a daily necessity for mind, body and spirit.

What app do you spend the most time on?

Instagram...duh!

What's the worst advice you've ever received?

My mentors always gave me great advice. But the worst advice I ever received was that I should be a model, which is something I would not enjoy.

If you could relive one performance, what would it be?

Performing the solo In/Side by Robert Battle in my hometown of Miami, Florida. It was an overwhelming experience. I went on an unexpected ride, the audience reaction was astounding and I was uncharacteristically in tears during bows.

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It was Boston Ballet's first full run-through of its upcoming show, Kylián/Wings of Wax. As he prepared with a plié for a big saut de basque, principal dancer Paulo Arrais, 32, heard a Velcro-like sound and suddenly fell to the floor. He went into a state of shock, hyperventilating and feeling intense pressure on his knee. It turned out to be a full patellar tendon rupture, requiring surgery and an entire year off before he could return to the company.

Though his physical condition continues to improve, Arrais' mental recovery has also been challenging. "Treating your mind is just as important as treating your body," he says.

Feeling safe when returning to the studio can be tricky for any dancer. Some researchers believe a fear of reinjury can actually make athletes more prone to hurting themselves again. We talked to several medical professionals to understand why that might happen and what dancers can do to overcome that anxiety.

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