Annique S. Roberts talks about dancing for Ronald K. Brown
Annique S. Roberts talks about dancing for Ronald K. Brown in advance of Evidence's Joyce Theater season.
Sun Feb 3 2013
Time Out New York: What did Ron say when you joined Fagan?
Annique S. Roberts: He said, “Congratulations.” He did. And I was so scared to tell him, because I felt like I had betrayed everything that I had worked for leading up to that time. I always stayed in touch with Ron. I always saw Evidence perform. Every time Fagan was here, I invited him to shows. He was always supportive. If I needed a letter of recommendation, he wrote it. He remained a mentor for me even when I didn’t go to Evidence right away and I think both of us sort of trusted that I would make my way back to Evidence eventually.
Time Out New York: Was there even an opening for a dancer at Evidence at the time?
Annique S. Roberts: No. That’s another reason why it worked out so nicely. I don’t think it was until six months after I graduated that an opening began to kind of form in the company for a female.
Time Out New York: Why did you leave Fagan?
Annique S. Roberts: Probably a few reasons. One, I wanted to dance for Evidence. I think that was always looming, but I trusted that when the time came I would know. Then, for whatever reason, I felt like I had reached some type of glass ceiling at Fagan. I needed to go somewhere else to continue to grow. I don’t know that it’s anybody’s fault—I was just ready to go. I asked Ron if he was going to have any spots available, and he said, “We’ll see,” and I went to see a show of theirs in Albany and we talked, and throughout the course of the beginning part of that year, we continued to stay in touch. I said, “I’d like to leave Garth in the summer, and can I come apprentice at least until a spot becomes available?” He said yes. So I moved here in September and by January he was able to put me on contract. Rochester definitely wasn’t helping the situation. I didn’t like the city. But it was Ron. I was ready to be in Evidence and I think I just felt that.
Time Out New York: Was it a smooth transition?
Annique S. Roberts: For the most part yes, and I think it’s because I was already familiar with Ron’s style. It took a second to get back into it. Going from balances and extensions, it took a minute to adjust, but he helped me out. He would give me my notes where I would realize some of the Fagan-isms that I had adopted were getting in the way of getting his work, and he coached me through that. Beyond that, the transition was fine. I was able to find ways to use what I learned at Fagan to help me in Evidence.
Time Out New York: Like what?
Annique S. Roberts: One of the things with Garth that was a wonderful challenge was changing dynamics and rhythms. I always liked trying to figure that out. When it got to Ron’s work, it was even more of a challenge for some reason because everything can start to look the same if you’re not careful. I didn’t want that to happen to my dancing. I was like, How am I going to find how things are going to change and shift? When I’m grounded and when I’m up in the air, how am I going to change up the dynamic and stop here or extend this a little bit longer? Again, Ron gives you the freedom to play around with that. That’s one of the main things I was able to apply. The other thing is the discipline. It’s helped me tremendously with Evidence. It’s a younger company and Ron is not as strict as Garth is, so it becomes a true test of self-discipline that I don’t think I had before I got to Fagan. I was able to bring that to Evidence.
Time Out New York: You joined in January of 2010, so it hasn’t been that long. What has the experience felt like so far?
Annique S. Roberts: I look back and I can’t believe it’s been three years. Evidence was my dream company. It’s been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot about myself. One thing is that going into Fagan, I was the youngest. Coming into Evidence, I’m one of the older company members even though being old in Evidence is like being 30-something and in Fagan it’s 50. [Laughs] I’ve learned a lot about myself as a leader. Ron’s work gives me the ability to reflect on my life and my stories, my family’s stories. I’m so often trying to find ways to relate to Ron’s message in his work and that asks me to call on my experiences, which can be sometimes emotional but also therapeutic. I don’t think I got to do that with Garth so much. Another thing: Ron is very community-oriented, and we do a lot of outreach. Garth did it, but we do it a lot more. When we travel, we don’t just work with college students, we work with kids with disabilities—it’s touching to see how the work can affect people from all different backgrounds. That speaks to the power of dance. I developed a need for service and now that I have a little more time with Evidence I started a scholarship program at my high school.
Time Out New York: Tell me about it.
Annique S. Roberts: It’s a day of dance classes, but it’s also a scholarship program and we award two students scholarships. It’s because of Evidence that I really wanted to do a project like that. I woke up one day with this idea that I needed to give back to where I’m from because they gave me so much. I decided, Let’s have a day of dance classes, pull in teachers from all over the city, open it up to the community, raise money and see what happens. It exposes the students to all different types of dance, and I try to bring in teachers who have graduated from the school, so they get to see people coming from where they are right now, which I didn’t get to see. I didn’t get that kind of exposure in high school, which is why I got to Howard and was like, Oh my gosh! [Laughs] This exists? One scholarship is for an underclassman for a summer-dance program; the other is for a graduating senior for college. It’s called the Tri-Cities High School Spring Dance Series.
Time Out New York: Torch is the new work this season and it’s dedicated to the memory of Beth Young. Who was she?
Annique S. Roberts: She was a good friend and big supporter of the company. She took classes. She passed away last year from breast cancer.
Time Out New York: What is it like when a patron wants to take class with you?
Annique S. Roberts: [Laughs] Sometimes it happens in reverse order. People will come and take our class and then decide to support the company. I’ve seen that happen a few times. I don’t know which way it worked with Beth. She was here long before I got here.
Time Out New York: What is Torch like?
Annique S. Roberts: So far, let’s see…
Time Out New York: Ron’s not finished?
Annique S. Roberts: No. [Laughs] No.
Time Out New York: Is he a last-minute kind of guy?
Annique S. Roberts: I wouldn’t say last-minute, but I would say we’re going to keep going on with this thing until he’s done with it. He’s been working on it since October. He comes in with the movement and shows it to us and looks at it, and he starts grouping it and seeing who’s going to do what and how it’s going to be designed on the stage, and then all of a sudden a piece comes out if it. He plays around with the music a little bit. He’s not always set on the music. We’re probably two thirds of the way there. He has two sections done and I think he has one more. I think. [Laughs] He tells us some stuff, but you don’t know all that’s going on up there.