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“I Don’t Make Dance For Myself”: Jamar Roberts on Choreography, His Days at Alvin Ailey and What’s Next

On a Monday afternoon in late November, Jamar Roberts, a longtime star of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, standing in a studio at The company’s spacious glass-walled school in downtown Manhattan. But instead of joining the group of barefoot and masked dancers as they rehearsed his piece “Holding Space,” Roberts wore designer pants and black and white polka dot Converse. in August, the 39-year-old dancer announced his retirement from the company he had been a member of since 2002. Now, he watches the rehearsal as a choreographer.

Taking on a new role required a slight personality change for Roberts. “I had the idea, the impression that people, as a dancer, they see me as this big, explosive guy,” he said. “Emotions fly everywhere, swinging girls everywhere. But now I’m older too.” With the dancers, he focuses on drawing those emotions and focusing them on.

Earlier this month, Alvin Ailey returned to Downtown for their first live performance since the pandemic closed New York theaters and ended live cultural events. On December 9, the company spent a night celebrating Roberts in which he performed a solo piece, and the company premiered a recent, wildly ambitious piece called “Holding Space” “.

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“Holding Space,” which had its video premiere in June, is a bit unusual for Roberts to use as his swan song. Instead of jazz as the soundtrack to his previous work for the company, he opted for a gritty ambient composer set. Tim Hecker, attracted by its virtual sound and the feeling it evoked in him.

In an interview before his night, he felt apprehensive about the attention — “It was a bit distracting,” he said — but to him, it was more like a valedictorian than a valedictorian. must be a death. His retirement is like a graduation to enter his new phase as a famous choreographer. He has served as Ailey’s resident choreographer since 2019, and when the pandemic first broke, he drew attention far beyond the dance world for affect video where his choreography tried to capture the fear and pain of that moment.

Roberts said that he still plans to work with the company, and in February, the first big start to his choreographic career will come out. He has worked with the New York City Ballet Theater on an original production and has enjoyed the opportunity to work elsewhere. He says that his decision to retire is also related to the fact that he is no longer the young man who debuted with Ailey nearly two decades ago.

Vanity Fair spoke with the dancer about adapting his creative process to the demands of the pandemic, getting back to work with former colleagues and why saying goodbye is just the beginning for him. .

“I want people to know that endings can be beautiful and they don’t have to be sad,” he said of his preparations for one last solo performance. “Nothing lasts forever, but it exists simultaneously in our hearts and memories and the nature of what is left behind, and also in my performance. That said goodbye can be simple and sweet sometimes.”

Vanity Fair: How did you feel going from dancer to choreographer? Got a steep learning curve?

I choreographed everything and did everything in [Miami], where did I come from, before I was actually accepted into the company. It’s just part of the culture where I was trained. My dance teacher is always choreographing, and she’s always talking about creativity and how to make dances come from the deepest recesses. I never really wanted to be a choreographer, I’m a creative person. I just love creating anything — dance or things that go beyond dancing. So I’m going to do it just for the kicks, just for myself, just because I like the music and I love to dance.

https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2021/12/jamar-roberts-alvin-ailey-retirement-interview “I Don’t Make Dance For Myself”: Jamar Roberts on Choreography, His Days at Alvin Ailey and What’s Next

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