Did You Know? | Robert Battle

Who is Robert Battle?

“I remember early on . . . watching the preacher preach . . . and watching the rest of the congregation respond and be uplifted. I wanted to do something like that.” —Robert Battle on PBS’ NewsHour


Photo by Andrew Eccles

As Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s artistic director, Robert Battle leads a company of dancers that entertains, enlightens—and, certainly, uplifts—audiences around the globe.

His own story is one of rising above restrictions. Severely bowlegged, clad in leg braces, and bullied as he grew up in the rough neighborhood of Liberty City, Miami, Battle turned to dance. Security bars on his porch windows served as a barre; his dance bag concealed a hammer for protection.

A class trip to see the Ailey company in Revelations was just that: “a positive image that was much more powerful than all the negatives I had ever seen, combined,” he told the New York Times.

Years later, Battle would be hand-picked to run Ailey by Judith Jamison, whose magazine image he used to look at by flashlight late at night, dreaming.

1972 BORN Miami, Florida

1994 GRADUATES from The Juilliard School

1994–2001 DANCES with Parsons Dance Company

1999 CREATES his first dance for the Ailey company

2002 DEBUTS his company, Battleworks Dance, in Germany

2005 HONORED as a Master of African American Choreography by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

2011 BECOMES Ailey’s third artistic director