At City Ballet, Jamar Roberts and the dancers find a common language

But in this piece, he also fully exploits the vocabulary of ballet: arabesques, leaps where the legs beat together in the air, the crackl...


But in this piece, he also fully exploits the vocabulary of ballet: arabesques, leaps where the legs beat together in the air, the crackle of pointe shoes sliding on the stage. More specifically, it draws on the qualities that make City Ballet famous: speed, musical acuity, finesse of execution.

“It’s very clear and precise, and, in fact, very technical,” Phelan said. “In a way, it’s very Balanchine.” She was referring to George Balanchine, the choreographer who created the New York City Ballet, modeling it around his floaty, clear and unsentimental style.

“I thought a lot about Balanchine,” said Roberts, who studied ballet growing up in Miami, at Southwood Middle School, a magnetic arts school, and New World School of the Arts, before turning more towards modern and contemporary dance. A Southwood teacher encouraged students to borrow VHS tapes, and Roberts was particularly drawn to Balanchine’s ballet recordings. “I mean, right now, I could probably dance all ‘Agon,'” he said of Balanchine’s famously streamlined, modernist ballet, “that’s how obsessed I was.”

Although most of his dancing at Ailey was based on modern dance, Roberts also performed ballet professionally, in a short stint with Complexions Contemporary Ballet (where he danced in a piece by William Forsythe), as well as in works of Alonzo King and in Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma” at Ailey. In 2016, he was one of the dancers selected to perform “Chroma” in London in a cast that included dancers from Ailey and the Royal Ballet.

When Roberts arrived to choreograph the City Ballet dancers, his familiarity with the company’s style helped create a common language and a sense of recognition. But Roberts and the dancers had to expand beyond what they knew.

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Newsrust - US Top News: At City Ballet, Jamar Roberts and the dancers find a common language
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