As a child, Robert Battle used to pretend the protective bars on the windows of his childhood home in Miami were ballet bars. Now, he’s the artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatrt, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this year.
Ailey passed away in 1989, but dancers like Battle and Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison have stepped into the late choreographer’s shoes to become leaders of the contemporary dance field. Ailey’s style blended genre—including modern, ballet, jazz, and techniques of various African cultures—to explore the plight of the marginalized both onstage and off.
“You have to be mindful that you are part of a legacy, that you’re taking care of a legacy that has history,” said Battle to Rita Braver of CBS News in a feature highlighting the dance troupe’s milestone. Watch the video above.
Jamison, who took over for Ailey, said the loss of the choreographer was tragic for the dance company: “It also lifted us because look at what he left us—what a road map.”
In its 60 years, several pieces by Ailey have become classics, including Revelations and Cry. Currently, the school has 10 camps in cities around the U.S. to bring more dance opportunities to students across America.