Jamar Roberts, a magnificent Miami-raised dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, has been keeping faith with his Miami teacher and mentor Angel Fraser Logan since the Ailey troupe scooped him up straight out of high school at the New World School of the Arts. I wrote about their moving story for the New York Times last fall.
Roberts’ parents were devastated by drugs and poverty, and though he found his way to dance as a boy at arts magnet schools in South Dade, it was Logan who gave him the skills, and, most crucially, the faith in himself, that took him to a stellar career at Ailey, where he’s become one of the company’s biggest stars.
Logan was fresh out of the New World School of the Arts when she spotted the raw, gangly Roberts as a freshman at Coral Reef High School, at a class she was teaching there. She not only gave him a full scholarship at her studio, Empire Dance of Miami, but became his artistic mentor and substitute mother: driving him home, getting his teeth fixed, putting his drawings on program covers, taking him to competitions, getting him to New World, encouraging him and promising to be there for him.
Since Roberts left for Ailey in 2001, their relationship has continued and grown deeper. He has returned regularly to teach and choreograph for Empire, staying at Logan’s house, mentoring her daughter. And Logan is always there when Roberts performs with the Ailey company in Miami.
On Thursday Roberts puts that story into dance and onstage at Miami’s Olympia Theater downtown, with The House of the Most Loved, presented and performed by the Angel Fraser Logan Dance Company, the studio’s non-profit troupe. Approximately 25 young Miami dancers, from teenage girls on scholarship at Empire to aspiring college students from New World, will perform. The project was funded by a $50,000 Knight Arts Challenge grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
This is a pivotal moment for Roberts, who at 35 is starting to make the shift from physically awe-inspiring performer to dancemaker. His first piece for the Alvin Ailey company, Members Don’t Get Weary, got a rare rave review from the Times. (Roberts and the piece will both be on view at the Adrienne Arsht Center’s annual presentation of the Ailey company Feb. 22-25.)
The House of the Most Loved is at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Olympia Theater, 174 West Flagler St., Miami. Tickets $25 to $100 (plus an unfortunately high processing fee), at olympiatheater.org or 305-374-2444.