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My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey

Ransome, James (Illustrator)
Simon & Schuster 2015. 44 pages
First published: 2015
ISBN: 9781481422215 (hardcover)
9781481422222 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Non-Fiction
Book genre: Biography

Text Elements:

character, figurative language, layout, multimodal

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5
ESL Intensive & Enriched
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Born to a troubled woman in Jacksonville, Florida, Robert Battle was raised by a cousin in Miami. His “Mama Dessie,” as he called her, filled his life with music and poetry—young Robert sang in the choir and played the piano. Born bowlegged, he had to endure clunky, exhausting metal braces to straighten his legs. When the braces finally came off, young Robert announced he wanted to dance—and to become “the first black Baryshnikov.” From an after-school program, he was admitted to the New World School of the Arts and later to Juilliard, in New York City: “soaking in music and dripping with sweat, he’d never felt more at home.” Battle eventually joined the prestigious Parsons Dance Company and went on to become the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Battle’s achievements may seem preordained: “When I first saw Revelations,” he remembers of the famous Alvin Ailey ballet, “it felt like something I had already imagined as a child.” In Ailey’s seminal piece, he saw the history of his family and community, the sorrow of Blacks in America writ large, and their hope and joy.

This tidily narrated biography offers insight into the inspiration and the perspiration that shaped the professional dancer and choreographer. Pencil and charcoal illustrations are supplemented by fluid, loosely sketched figures of Battle in mid-movement.

The book also includes a foreword by the subject himself, lengthy notes by the author and the illustrator, a thorough bibliography and suggestions for further reading.

  •  

    Brainstorm what is needed to become a professional dancer. What qualities do you think would be required for a person to succeed? Take note of these qualities.

  •  Go for a picture walk. Discuss Robert’s evolution. What else do you notice?
  •  Create a mind map or a timeline of Robert’s journey through dance.
  •  

    Review the brainstorm list. Consider the hardship that Robert experienced. Discuss the qualities he possesses that have helped him become who he is today.

  •  

    In the same style, write about someone else who has succeeded in their career.

  •  

    Brainstorm what is needed to become a professional in the arts, in sports or in any domain. List the qualities you think are needed for a person to succeed.

  •  Go for a picture walk. Discuss Robert’s evolution. What else do you notice?
  •  Create a mind map or a timeline of Robert’s journey through dance.
  •  

    Go back to the quality list from the first activity. Discuss what qualities Robert has demonstrated to become who he is today, despite the hardship he has experienced.

  •  

    In the same style, write about someone you know who has succeeded in their career.

  •  

    With a partner, identify (three) key strategies someone must use to succeed in the face of major obstacles. Compare your answers with others in the class.

  •  

    As you read, keep track of Battle’s major life events in the form of a timeline. Begin with his birth and end with the events of July 1, 2011.

  •  

    Summarize Battle’s story in the form of a short song or poem, told from his own point of view. Use the timeline from the previous activity to help you.

  • To adopt effective work methods
  • To construct his/her identity
  • To use information
  • Citizenship and Community Life
  • Personal and Career Planning