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A Conversation with Robert Battle, Donald Byrd, & Allison Bantimba on Art & Racial Reconciliation.

Join Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director Robert Battle, celebrated choreographer Donald Byrd, and Fulton County Remembrance Coalition’s “Stories From the Soil” founder Allison Bantimba for a discussion that shines a spotlight on a hidden chapter of our history. Discover projects that are revealing our past, remembering untold stories and reconciling perspectives for the future.

The event previews Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s performances at the Fox Theatre February 20-23, 2020, which features the premiere of Donald Byrd’s powerful Greenwood, which examines the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre.

For Greenwood Ballet info, visit this link. For more information on the Greenwood story, click here.

Robert Battle

Robert Battle

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director

Robert Battle became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Mr. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization.

A frequent choreographer and artist in residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. The Company’s current repertory includes his ballets Ella, In/Side, Mass, No Longer Silent, and The Hunt. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, and Paul Taylor, Mr. Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.

Mr. Battle’s journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Florida. He showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program before moving on to Miami’s New World School of the Arts, under the direction of Daniel Lewis and Gerri Houlihan, and finally to the dance program at The Juilliard School, under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy, where he met his mentor, Carolyn Adams. He danced with The Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001, and also set his choreography on that company starting in 1998. Mr. Battle then founded his own Battleworks Dance Company, which made its debut in 2002 in Düsseldorf, Germany, as the U.S. representative to the World Dance Alliance’s Global Assembly. Battleworks subsequently performed extensively at venues including The Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Mr. Battle was honored as one of the “Masters of African-American Choreography” by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005, and he received the prestigious Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 2007. He has honorary doctorates from The University of the Arts and Marymount Manhattan College. Mr. Battle was named a 2015 Visiting Fellow for The Art of Change, an initiative by the Ford Foundation. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed a number of high-profile organizations, including the United Nations Leaders Programme and the UNICEF Senior Leadership Development Programme.

Donald Byrd

Donald Byrd

Choreographer

Donald Byrd, a TONY nominee (The Color Purple), Bessie Award-winner (The Minstrel Show) and a 2019 Doris Duke Artist Award recipient, is a masterful choreographer often referred to as a “citizen artist” for his ability to craft works that stimulate dialogue through powerful, timely stories and moving social commentary. Byrd has created more than 100 dance works for his own groups as well as for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco), Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Joffrey Ballet among many others. Among his more recent projects for Spectrum Dance Theater, where he has been artistic director since 2002, has been a group of works that focus on racial terrorism during the Jim Crow era (lynching), police shootings of un-armed black people, and slavery in its contemporary manifestation (human trafficking). Other productions that showcase his ability to navigate complex societal issues through dance include “Interrupted Narratives/War,” which tells stories from the war in Iraq, “The Theater of Needless Talents,” which focuses on the artist victims of the Holocaust, and a cycle of three evening-length works that sought to inspire thoughtful discourse around a post-9/11, globalized America.

From 1978 to 2002, Byrd was the artistic director of Donald Byrd/The Group, a critically acclaimed contemporary dance company. He regularly teaches around the country and has been a cultural envoy for the U.S. Department of State and a fellow at the Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue based at Harvard. Currently, in addition to his work at Spectrum, he serves on the Diversity Task Force and the SDC Journal-Editorial Board of Pier Review Section for the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society (SDC) and has previously served as Seattle Arts Commissioner. Byrd has been recognized with many awards and prizes, including a Masters of Choreography Award from The Kennedy Center; a Fellowship at The American Academy of Jerusalem; a United States Artists Fellowship; and the Mayor’s Arts Award for his sustained contributions to the city of Seattle.

Allison Bantimba

Allison Bantimba

Fulton County Remembrance Coalition’s “Stories From the Soil” Founder

A Massachusetts native, Allison Bantimba has called Atlanta home for the past four years. She recently joined The National Center for Civil and Human Rights as the Campaign Manager for the Truth and Transformation Project. As a graduate student, she organized the Fulton County Remembrance Coalition (FCRC) in partnership with the Equal Justice Initiative. The FCRC works to engage Fulton County in a process of truth and reconciliation by confronting our history of racial terrorism and recognizing its legacy. Allison holds a Bachelor of Science in marketing from Fordham University and a Master of Social Work from Georgia State University.

Fredricka Whitfield

Fredricka Whitfield

moderator

CNN News Anchor

Fredricka Whitfield is an anchor for CNN/U.S. She is based in the network’s world headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Whitfield anchors the weekend edition of CNN Newsroom.

Since joining CNN in 2002, she has reported from all over the world including the Persian Gulf region during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Beijing during the 2008 Summer Olympic Games, London at the 2012 Summer Olympic Games and  Washington, D.C. during the 2009 presidential inauguration.

Prior to CNN, Whitfield was a correspondent for NBC News and served as an Atlanta-based correspondent for NBC Nightly News, The Today Show and Dateline NBC. She covered stories such as the highly contested 2000 presidential race and the resulting ballot recount as well as the 1996 Olympics, the Olympic Park bombing in Atlanta and the manhunt for bomber Eric Rudolph. Whitfield also reported on the 1999 refugee crisis in Macedonia during the Kosovo War.

Before her time at NBC, Whitfield was a reporter and anchor at WPLG-TV in Miami, an evening anchor for News Channel 8 in Washington, D.C., and a general assignment reporter at KTVT-TV in Dallas as well as at WTNH in New Haven, Conn. She began her professional career as a reporter and morning anchor for WCIV in Charleston, S.C.

In her nearly three decades long career, Whitfield has garnered multiple awards and honors for her broadcasting. In 2000 she earned an Emmy award nomination for long form storytelling. Her other notable awards include the 2002 Howard University School of Communications Alumna of the year, 2004 Alfred I. DuPont Award winning team for CNN’s coverage of the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia, 2005 George Peabody award for the network’s live coverage of Hurricane Katrina and aftermath, 2005 Ebony award for Outstanding Women in Marketing and Communications, 2007 Emmy award for outstanding live coverage of a breaking news story long form, 2008 NAMD Communicator of the year, 2008 Howard University postgraduate achievement in the field of Journalism, and 2009 NYABJ long form feature. Whitfield was also a part of the network’s Peabody Award winning coverage of the 2010 Gulf Oil Spill and the 2011 Arab Spring.

Whitfield earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Howard University.

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