Robert Battle Answers Your Questions – Part 3: The Future of Dance & Staying Resilient

Posted April 30, 2013

You asked, and Artistic Director Robert Battle has the answers. In our three-part Facebook Fan Question series, get inside Robert's head and discover his thoughts on choreography, music, artistic leadership, the future of dance, and more.

Part 1: Choreography
Part 2: Artistic Leadership & Music

Robert Battle on the Future of Dance, Other Passions, and How to Embrace Setbacks

The Company in Love Stories, choreographed by Judith Jamison, Rennie Harris and Robert Battle. Photo by Andrew Eccles

Imuru Barbel asks:
What innovations/trends in dance do you foresee in the next 10 years?

I’m not sure what I see in terms of innovations and trends, because that’s hard to predict. But I can say to you that things sort of repeat themselves. Some of it is because we often don’t understand our own history as dancers and choreographers. And so, when we don’t understand that, we don’t recognize that certain things have happened before and what we do is a sort of reimagining. You really have to understand that every step you do has probably been done before. How an individual conceives the step is what makes it new and different. I know that I’m excited about where I see dance now and where I see dance going. I just hope I can be a part of it.

Healthy Can be Done! *Natural Fit Life* asks: 
What are your other favorite things/passions, beside dancing?

I like watching other performers, especially singers. I like watching people express themselves artistically in a different way that’s perhaps a little more mysterious to me because it is not something I do all the time. I like watching other artists in other mediums because it informs my own artistry in a new way. When I take a voice lesson, the imagery the teacher uses to get a certain sound out me sometime relates to dance in a way, so it gives me another way to talk about it. Someone who was teaching me once said that if you go for a high note, you don’t reach for the note; you stay grounded. She used the example of getting on an elevator: the elevator goes up, but you don’t. That told me a lot, not only about dancing, but about life.

Staci Addison asks: 
If dance was not part of your life, what would you spend your time doing?

I’m not sure what I’d I spend my time doing. That’s hard to say when you do it as much as I do and tour as much as the Ailey company does. I love it and it’s hard to imagine it not being a part of my life. I’d probably be singing somewhere. Who knows, maybe I’d probably be a concert pianist, or a preacher. That’s what I really wanted to do when I was little! I wanted to be a preacher. It’s really not that different from what I do now [laughs]. And maybe watch television every now and then.

Treyon Michaelangelo Sargent asks: 
What is your advice to those who wish to soon have the same success as yourself but get discouraged at times?

You have to embrace the notion that you’re going to get discouraged. I think that when you embrace these experiences as though they are a part of life, then you can expect to feel discouraged at times and it might still hurt, but you are not going to be surprised when you feel it. I think everything that you need to deal with discouragement is built into what we do as dancers. The way we take class, the structure, the way we have to face ourselves in the mirror even when we don’t like what we see. We have to take a look at it and see if we can correct it or if someone can help us correct it. Think about the way a dance class is structured, in term of having a small task that you have to complete, like a plié: it has a beginning, middle, and end. You keep doing these small tasks along the way that, by the end, get larger and larger. So now you’re in the center, and you’re doing a longer adagio, and now you’re doing things across the floor. Whatever it is, it’s built into that same structure that you apply to your career. Many people who you think are the greatest dancers and artist of the world can tell you many stories of when they felt defeated. As Maya Angelou once said, “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” So hold on to that quote, because I certainly do.

Robert Battle onstage at the Apollo Theater. Photo by Christopher Duggan



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