Robert Battle Leads Workshop for Aspiring Dancers at Miami Northwestern High School

You could call coming back to your old school and conducting a master class giving back to the community. Robert Battle has a different name for it.

"This is really something that I like to call spiritual reciprocity," Battle said.

Battle is on familiar turf at Miami Northwestern High School. He went there for ninth and tenth grade before transferring to New World School of the Arts. 30 years of hard work later, Battle is now the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

"In the world of dance, Robert Battle is huge," explained Traci Young-Byron, the dance teacher at Northwestern High. "I think what he offers to the world of contemporary dance in general is, like, epic."

Battle coming back to teach the dance kids at Northwestern, even for a day, is somewhat analogous to Michael Jordan going to his old school to coach a basketball practice, or Steven Spielberg going to his alma mater to teach film production, or Meryl Streep going back to teach an acting seminar at her high school.

"I think that it's absolutely amazing that someone of Robert Battle's stature is coming back to Miami Northwestern to work with these students. I think it's amazing. It gives them hope, it gives them something to look forward to. He comes from the same place they came from," Young-Byron said.

Battle sees this kind of outreach as part of his mission. It's clear he's never forgotten his roots.

"I come back in hopes that my story will connect with these young people so they know there is a pathway forward if they want it," Battle said. "They understand at some level that I come from where they come from."

Battle gave the kids pointers, not just about dance, but also about life. He stressed the virtues of hard work, visualizing success, and being nice to everyone you meet along your journey.

"It means a lot that he actually lived in my same area and actually attended the school I attend. That shows me that no matter where you come from you can always make it in life," said dance student Diaunte Jenkins.

There's no question Battle is a role model, perhaps the best role model, these dance students have. Who's to say one of the kids in the Northwestern High program isn't the next Robert Battle?

"I absolutely see the talent in this room," Battle said. "I see it not only physically in what they're doing but in their eyes in the way they listen. I can see their potential."

Maximizing their potential is the next step, and that's entirely up to the students themselves.

Battle's first creation with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Awakening, debuts this Thursday night at the Arsht Center in Miami.

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