Top New York dancers hit the south coast

New York's Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater makes its Southampton debut with dates at the Mayflower on October 11-12.

Jacqueline Green and Jamar Roberts
Jacqueline Green and Jamar Roberts

They will be performing Exodus, Four Corners, After the Rain Pas de Deux and Revelations – in any of which dancer Jamar Roberts might be appearing.

“I just don’t know,” says Jamar. “I just take one day at a time. Otherwise it all gets a bit overwhelming!”

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Jamar graduated from the New World School of the Arts. He trained at the Dance Empire of Miami and as a fellowship student at The Ailey School. He first joined the company in 2002.

“The UK is part of where we tour from time to time. We were over here six years ago. When I first got into the company, it was actually the first year I came to the UK. I wanted to be part of the company because my mentor, my dance professor, told me that it was a good place, and I wanted to be where there is good dance.

“I didn’t really have any definite idea of what the company was about before I got into it, but I would say that it is really about cultural exchange. It is American culture, and it is African-American culture that we are touring around the world and sharing with other people.

“Also, we are just showing the humanity of it. We all go through the same things. We all experience sadness. We all experience joy. Alvin Ailey’s work does a lot to bring those emotions together. I think that is one of the through-lines in the company.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, the performance changed forever the perception of American dance. The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people at theatres in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents – and has reached millions more online and through television broadcasts.

In 2008, a US Congressional resolution designated the Company as “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world” that celebrates the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage.

Jamar is delighted to remain part of it: “I think for me, it is the freedom of expression that I like in the work. That’s really important for me. I am not really a dancer that stresses technique. I don’t really dance from a technical space. I am a very generous performer, and I really like the freedom that working with the company allows. There is definitely a structure, but I just think that work allows you to show yourself and who you are. You don’t have to hide between pyrotechnics all the time. You can be yourself…”

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