Chalvar Monteiro saw his first Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance at 12 and was smitten. Today, at 28, he's a lithe, elegantly understated member of the company. But he's experienced some happy detours along the way—namely as a dancer with MacArthur-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham, as well as Sidra Bell and Larry Keigwin. After a stint with Ailey II, he joined the main company in 2015. He has shown both sophistication and versatility: fearless in the "Sinner Man" section of Revelations and searing in Untitled America, Abraham's emotional exploration of how the prison system affects families.
Company: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Hometown: Montclair, New Jersey
Training: Sharron Miller's Academy for the Performing Arts, The Ailey School, BFA in dance from SUNY Purchase
Monteiro in action (the second dancer in this excerpt of the "Sinner Man" section of Alvin Ailey's Revelations)
Don't give up on your dream: It took Monteiro seven auditions to get into Ailey. At one point, he decided to stop auditioning but changed his mind after some soul searching. "I realized a lesson that a lot of dancers have to learn in the age of technology," he says, "where everything is at the reach of your thumb: It's really about timing. You can't fast-forward the process."
Breakout moment: Performing Abraham's Untitled America—as an Ailey dancer. "Kyle was able to see me as 'Chalvar the dancer' and not 'Chalvar the Abraham.In.Motion dancer.' He started to see more of what I have to offer."
"I really appreciate his quiet storm.
He has a certain effortlessness
that is intoxicating." —Robert Battle
Being older has its advantages: Earlier in his career, Monteiro says he was an impressionable young dancer. "If the wind was blowing to the right, I was going to the right. Now I feel I can dictate where I want to go and why I want to go there." Dancing for a range of choreographers, learning Ailey's immense repertoire and attending performances—he loved, for instance, a recent show by Michelle Dorrance—have helped broaden his perspective.
What artistic director Robert Battle is saying: "Chalvar's movement kind of simmers," says Battle. "He's the type of dancer that hasn't even begun to hit the notes that he will eventually hit. He has a lot of potential even within his prowess."
The trouble with being so flexible: "My legs can just kind of fly up from underneath me! I've knocked myself over a few times."
What he's working on: Ownership. "People expect to see a certain type of dancer when they come to see Ailey. But I'm just working on being honest," says Monteiro. "I want to be myself without imposing myself on the work. I'm also working on being excited by the unknown. You know Virgos: I like to know what I'm doing, when I'm doing it and who I'm doing it with. Now I'm working with being okay with not knowing everything."