Developing New Skills & Capacities

In my post Monday I was wondering what influence Covid might have on dance choreography given the visual range of cameras, etc. Tuesday morning I woke up and saw a link on to an NPR interview with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Artistic Director Robert Battle which partially answered that question.

Battle talks about a lot of the challenges the Ailey company had to navigate while trying to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s  “Revelations”, a signature piece created during the Civil Rights era. Many of the challenges they faced were familiar – testing for the virus, changing the spacing between people, rehearsing in unfamiliar spaces and rendering a performance for an unfamiliar medium.

However, Battle also talks about lessons learned that they hope to leverage to their benefit even after Covid restrictions are lifted. This serves as an important example to all in the arts community because it is generally acknowledged that there is no return to the previous operating environment. As a result, new skills and capacities need to be developed. (my emphasis):

BATTLE: I definitely think so because often, you know, necessity is the mother of invention. And sometimes, that thing that you, you know, you have to do differently and rethink and reimagine actually sticks around, you know (laughter)? It’s like, I can’t imagine that once we’re back doing live performance that some of the things we’ve learned about filming dance and embracing that as a thing unto itself rather than only a response to not being able to be in the theater, but to go into the art of filming dance – and I think that’s what’s wonderful about what we did with “Revelations.” You know, we did the “Wade In The Water” part outside in the garden. So it gave you that sense of being more authentic. So it just offered us such opportunities.

And so we want to make the filming look as if that’s what it’s meant to be – that it’s not saying, oh, well, unfortunately, we can’t be in the theater, so we’re going to do this. But we want it to look as if that was the intention all the time. And that’s what I think we’re achieving.

About Joe Patti

I have been writing Butts in the Seats (BitS) on topics of arts and cultural administration since 2004 (yikes!). Given the ever evolving concerns facing the sector, I have yet to exhaust the available subject matter. In addition to BitS, I am a founding contributor to the ArtsHacker ( website where I focus on topics related to boards, law, governance, policy and practice.

I am also an evangelist for the effort to Build Public Will For Arts and Culture being helmed by Arts Midwest and the Metropolitan Group. (

My most recent role was as Executive Director of the Grand Opera House in Macon, GA.

Among the things I am most proud are having produced an opera in the Hawaiian language and a dance drama about Hawaii's snow goddess Poli'ahu while working as a Theater Manager in Hawaii. Though there are many more highlights than there is space here to list.


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