Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer and resident choreographer Jamar Roberts

Andrew Eccles, Courtesy AAADT

From the Running Man to Ailey, Jamar Roberts Has Always Considered Dance His Playground

Some of my earliest memories are of being outside in the blazing heat of Miami's eternal summer, my friends and cousins and I all gathered around a boom box, blasting the best mixtapes we could make.

All it took was for that one song that everyone loved for us to start dancing like mad.


And in all of our preteenaged glory we began to show off for one another the latest moves we learned from movies and music videos. The Kid 'n Play, the running man, the moonwalk, the stomp-and-grind. We invented step routines or worked tirelessly at perfecting what is better known nowadays as twerking. With each attempt, we would put a new spin on the moves to make them our own, in hopes of putting the others to complete shame. But more so to simply give them something to laugh about. This is where dance began for me. Dance as play.

Roberts stands on a dark stage, lit by a spotlight. He is wearing silver pants, an open red bomber jacket and a red hat. His arms are curving in opposite angles.

Roberts in Talley Beatty's Stack-Up

Paul Kolnik, Courtesy AAADT

Dancing has always been a huge part of the culture that I grew up in. The freedom and agency over one's own body was always permissible, especially upon hearing your favorite song. Even as a kid, I witnessed the power of dance and its ability to focus the mind, liberate the body, lift the spirit and bring people together.

It comes very naturally to me: I feel more myself when I dance than I do at any other moments in my life. It's where I am my most honest and my imagination is unbound. Dance is my playground, and the music is my best friend. Just as it's always been.

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Last summer, months before the word "coronavirus" became part of our daily lexicon, American Repertory Theater artistic director Diane Paulus started working with an unexpected expert: Joseph Allen, an assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard's H.T. Chan School of Public Health and head of the university's Healthy Buildings Program. According to Boston Magazine, Paulus was starting to plan out A.R.T.'s new venue at Harvard, and wanted to design a "healthy" theater.

So when COVID-19 began shutting everything down, the team had already put in months of work considering how to make a performing arts venue safe. To share their ideas with other theaters, A.R.T. published a blueprint online that will be continually updated. Although the "Roadmap for Recovery and Resilience for Theater" is not meant to be comprehensive or prescriptive, it offers several insightful factors to consider:

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