Judith Jamison, the-soon- to-be artistic director emeritus of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has said: “I can’t wait to see the South Florida audiences join my extraordinary dancers on this season’s inspiring journey through the past two decades and into the future. We know how to fly; we really do.”
On the advertisements for Ailey’s upcoming performances in Miami, one dancer in particular is literally flying. That dancer, Jamar Roberts, is one of Ailey’s tallest, and quite the hot commodity in the dance community.
Roberts, who is listed at over 6’5”, can be seen performing with the Alvin Ailey Company at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts May 20-23.
This season’s performances will include world premieres of “Uptown” (a work dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance, thanks to choreographer Matthew Rushing,) and “Dancing Spirit,” as well as the addition of “Best of 20 Years.”
When Roberts, 28, first joined the Ailey Company in 2002, people couldn’t say enough good things about him and his budding career.
“Jamar is one of those few dancers who can do it all,” said dancer/writer Alison Hesh in a 2002 article. She also went on to call him “every young dancer’s idol.”
Those are weighty words for the young dancer at the time.
To many people, Roberts, one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2007, is the best at what he does. It doesn’t hurt that he’s quite the visually appealing dancer, either.
According to the late Robert Tracy, former writer for Dance Magazine, Jamar Roberts has “Movie star good looks and an Olympian physique; he moves like fire.”
Added Jamison, “Jamar is living, moving sculpture. Totally stunning to watch. Every move he makes has significance, be it large or transitional. He is a sublime artist with a divine love for dance.”
One look at the Alvin Ailey posters blanketing the Miami area and the Ailey website, and you can see why admirers make these statements. Roberts takes it all in stride.
Asked why he is such a hot commodity within the Ailey Company and why so many reporters clamor to get interviews with him, Roberts said with a laugh, “I’m the tallest.”
Roberts added, “In dance, there’s a fine line between being a dancer and being an artist. It’s one thing to be super pyrotechnical, and then it’s quite another to be able to be pyrotechnical. Not to say that I am the most pyrotechnical dancer. But when I dance, I’m definitely trying to communicate with the audience in a way that’s more powerful that people take notice to.”
As a young man growing up in Homestead, Roberts begged his parents to allow him to attend schools with great arts programs. His first professional dance class was with Miami’s Dance Empire, where he trained under Angel Fraser-Logan, the acclaimed dance instructor and owner of Dance Empire.
In the tenth grade, he entered New World School of the Arts, where he had to make “really long treks” to the school because he lived so far away. But his persistence paid off. Not only did he attend the Joffrey Ballet School, he also trained with Ailey II, the second company. At 20, Roberts became the youngest dancer accepted into the Ailey Company. He hasn’t looked back since.
“I’ve learned that you have to have a strong love and passion for what you do. If not, then, there’s just no point in doing it,” Roberts said about what he’s learned from his experience with the Ailey Company so far. “I’ve also learned to pace myself.”
Back in 2002, when Roberts was first inducted into the Ailey Company, he dreamed of becoming a choreographer. Eight years later, he’s satisfied that his career as a dancer is still a prevalent part of his life, and he isn’t ready to explore the choreography part of his career — yet.
In his daily routine in New York City, the central location of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Roberts spends an hour and a half in dance class, and six hours rehearsing. With that much training time, it’s no wonder the Ailey Company is considered one of the best of the best in the dance world.
Even though Roberts is getting such recognition abroad, he hasn’t forgotten his roots.
“I’m very excited to be back performing in my hometown and I appreciate their love for the company,” Roberts said about performing at the Arsht Center. “There’s always been this love for Ailey in Miami. I feel that more so on stage than I would in the audience.”
Photo: Jamar Roberts
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
WHEN: May 20, 21, & 22 at 8 p.m. and May 22 & 23 at 2 p.m.
(Prompt arrival strongly encouraged, as patrons will not be seated once the performance begins).
WHERE: Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami.
COST: $32 to $135.
PARKING: $10 and up.
CONTACT: Please call 305-949-6722 or visit www.arshtcenter.org.