New season, new director for Alvin Ailey

November 10, 2011 2:39:14 PM PST
The famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater kicks off its new season this month with a new director at the helm.

So can we expect changes, and what advice has been passed down?

"I'm the type of guy that likes to keep you sitting on the edge of your seat. They can expect, I believe, the unexpected," said Robert Battle, the new artistic director of this internationally renowned dance company.

Only two other have sat at the helm. Its creator, the late Alvin Ailey, and legendary Judith Jamison.

Now it's battle's turn.

During rehearsal, he made it clear to me that he plans to keep the traditional Ailey base in place, yet he realizes the importance of layering on new components.

"It's the very reason why the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater remains relevant because we stay on the precipices of discovery," Battle said.

Case in point is from Minus 16 by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin.

"It's a work that sort of breaks that fourth wall, there's a moment where you bring the audience members on stage and dance with them, that's definer from Ailey," he said.

Another first - this season, an unprecedented 50 dancers will perform Ailey's signature piece, revelations.

Recognized as one of the masters of African American choreography, battle has, for years, been a close friend of the Ailey family, creating several pieces for the company.

He's in constant contact with his good friend and mentor, Judith Jamison, who with her part words, left him on cloud 9.

"You're not filling shoes, but you're standing on shoulders and to remember this as a legacy and she choose me because of my singular voice," Battle said.