As a child, Robert Battle (Jacksonville, Florida, 1972) sang in a church choir. He stopped when his high soprano voice started to change and he also became interested in dance: in his early teens he imitated Michael Jackson and Fred Astaire. However, he grew up in a poor Afro-American environment where a dance education was not exactly an easy choice; Battle started lessons in martial arts, above all to overcome his own insecurity.
But during his time at secondary school Battle finally got the chance to develop his dance talent, and so he ended up first at the New World School of the Arts in Miami and later at the dance department of the famous Juilliard School in New York. At the time this was under the leadership of Benjamin Harkarvy (a former ballet master and for a short time the artistic director of the Nederlands Dans Theater). Battle already began making short choreographies during his studies at Juilliard. He made his first full-length creations for the Parsons Dance Company in America, where he danced from 1994 to 2001. Encouraged by the success of his work he then set up his own company in New York: Battleworks Dance Company.
As a choreographer Battle stands out by virtue of his dynamic, physical and generally very challenging dance idiom, as well as his powerful imagination. He applies these qualities in dramatically charged works – sometimes also featuring ethnic influences – as well as in small, vivacious dance jewels, often full of crazy, bizarre ideas. Battle prefers to create his work spontaneously, sometimes in someone’s living room, sometimes in a hotel room or when he unexpectedly has a spare hour in the rehearsal studio. Here he always seeks the unique qualities of his dancers – he can be inspired by what he sees in someone’s eyes, by the way a person deals with his or her small or perhaps large stature, or by someone’s perseverance.
Over the last years Battle has been a regular guest at Introdans: he made his Dutch debut with Feast in 2004, made especially for Introdans. Since then Introdans has danced several of his works. The ballets Final Sounds and Bon Appétit! are also made for Introdans.
In 2011 Battle was appointed as artistic director of the famous Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. Following on from the founder Alvin Ailey and his successor Judith Jamison, he is now the third person to lead this company since it was set up in 1958, and it was Jamison herself who designated him as her successor. In 2005 Battle was proclaimed one of the ‘Masters of African-American Choreography’ by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and in 2007 he received the prestigious Statue Award from the American Princess Grace Foundation.