Roberts is one of a stream of New World graduates who have danced with Ailey over the years — at one point a third of the troupe came from the Miami arts conservatory — part of a longtime Miami-Ailey connection that helped lead to the choice of Battle as director. But Thomas-Schmitt, who also heads the AileyCamp program, thinks the city is ready for much more. Last summer, 500 kids applied in one day for the 150 slots at the Ailey camp.
“Young people here are very hungry,” Thomas-Schmitt says. “They’ve got a great spirit. They are excited to learn, and they’ve got personality. ... They have a lot to say.”
The Arsht Center, which is co-producing the student performance, has helped foster the company’s Miami connections by hosting AileyCamp for six weeks each summer.
Arsht Center President John Richard says Battle’s position has increased the popularity of a troupe that regularly sells out its shows here. “There is now this pride that Miami’s own is leading this incredible company,” Richard says. “Robert is a living example of attaining the highest level of accomplishment. That’s important for kids to see and know.”
Battle says he hopes to increase the company’s Miami presence, mentioning more master classes, community outreach, open rehearsals and Revelations Residencies at a different time of year (plans for a residency at a third school had to be put aside because of FCAT preparations).
“There’s a lot of connective tissue,” he says. “It’s too early to say, but I’m open to figuring out new ways to engage.”