Berkeley Talks: Artistic Director Robert Battle on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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For over 50 years, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley has fostered a strong partnership with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Since the company’s debut performance at Wheeler Hall in March of 1968, it has played a central role in Cal Performances’ dance programming for half a century.

Outside of their home in New York City, the dance company performs in Berkeley more consistently than in any other city. “Cal Performances has been an important part of Ailey’s history,” said Robert Battle, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “It is so meaningful to have a ‘home’ where we are always welcome in California – the state where Alvin Ailey grew up and was transformed by dance as a young person. His pioneering mission of using dance to inspire, enlighten and unite is alive and thriving in Berkeley through performances, arts-in-education and training programs and community activities for all ages and backgrounds.”

In March 2018, to commemorate the milestone 50th anniversary, then-executive and artistic director of Cal Performances Matías Tarnopolsky sat down with Battle for a conversation about his experience as an African American choreographer, artistic influences and vision for the Ailey company.

Cal Performances, the performing arts presenter of the University of California, Berkeley, fulfills its mission by presenting, producing and commissioning renowned and emerging artists of the highest caliber. The organization’s Berkeley RADICAL initiative offers programming that cultivates the artistic literacy of future audiences and connects the most innovative and accomplished artists in the world with the intellectual capital of UC Berkeley.

In the 2017-18 season, during the 50th anniversary celebration, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s residency was part of Cal Performances’ 2017–18 Berkeley RADICAL Joining Generations programming strand, which spotlighted the work of four generations of trailblazing African-American choreographers whose creative output explicitly and intentionally addresses issues of history, race and personal identity.

This conversation was recorded in March 2018 by Cal Performances. Watch the video on Cal Performances’ YouTube page.

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(Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater photo)