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Robert Battle Takes Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe in New Directions

HIV through hip-hop, a new choreography residency program, Indian Kathak dance, and the work of a female choreographer. These are some of the themes that make up the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 2011-12 season. The troupe's incoming artistic director, Robert Battle, announced the 20 works he had chosen for the new season on Thursday.

One of the highlights of the 2011-12 season, which runs from November 30, 2011 through January 1, 2012, is the world premiere of a new work by Rennie Harris, known for his hip-hop-style choreography. Harris' piece, inspired by stories and poems of those affected by or who know people with HIV, will be presented on December 1, which is World AIDS Day.

"I think Rennie is great in the way he takes a conceptual approach to hip-hop," Battle said. "He is bringing a unique perspective to stories that absolutely have to be told, and that ought to be realized in a dance vocabulary that comes from a new generation.”

Battle announced that other company premieres included Paul Taylor's "Arden Court," Ohad Naharin's "Minus 16," and Battle's own "Takademe," which is based on rhythms of Indian Karthak dance. The troupe will also stage new productions of Joyce Trisler's "Journey" and Alvin Ailey's "Streams," and classics such as Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" and Battle's "The Hunt."

Joyce Trisler performed with Alvin Ailey in the Lester Horton Dance Theater in the 1950s. Battle said when he saw Trisler's "Journey," he was hooked.

"From the first moment I saw this work many years ago, I have been haunted by it, and could see the link to Horton, so it was a great education," he said. "It is sublime in its simplicity and power.” 

Battle also announced that the company had chosen four choreographers to work with creative advisers during seven-week residencies in its New Directions Choreography Lab, where choreographers could "explore the creative process freely, without deadline pressures or the requirement of producing a final performance." The choreographers the troupe chose for this season were Adam Barruch, Camille Brown, Joanna Kotze and Malcolm Low.

In July, Battle, who has been a choreographer and artist-in-residence at Alvin Ailey since 1999, takes over the role of the troupe's artistic director from Judith Jamison. The only other person to run the company besides Jamison was Alvin Ailey himself, who founded the company in 1958.