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?
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'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.
Just hearing the word "improvisation" is enough to make some ballet dancers shake in their pointe shoes. But for Chantelle Pianetta, it's a practice she relishes. Depending on the weekend, you might find her gracing Bay Area stages as a principal with Menlowe Ballet or sweeping in awards at West Coast swing competitions.
She specializes in Jack and Jill events, which involve improvised swing dancing with an unexpected partner in front of a panel of judges. (Check her out in action below.) While sustaining her ballet career, over the past four years Pianetta has quickly risen from novice to champion level on the WCS international competition circuit.
Sean Dorsey was always going to be an activist. Growing up in a politically engaged, progressive family in Vancouver, British Columbia, "it was my heart's desire to create change in the world," he says. Far less certain was his future as a dancer.
Like many dancers, Dorsey fell in love with movement as a toddler. However, he didn't identify strongly with any particular gender growing up. Dorsey, who now identifies as trans, says, "I didn't see a single person like me anywhere in the modern dance world." The lack of trans role models and teachers, let alone all-gender studio facilities where he could feel safe and welcome, "meant that even in my wildest dreams, there was no room for that possibility."
It's hour three of an intense rehearsal, you're feeling mentally foggy and exhausted, and your stomach hurts. Did you know the culprit could be something as simple as dehydration?
Proper hydration helps maintain physical and mental function while you're dancing, and keeps your energy levels high. But with so many products on the market promising to help you rehydrate more effectively, how do you know when it's time to reach for more than water?