As Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater prepares to return to Philly, Jeroboam Bozeman took some time to talk with writer, Debra Danese. The two reconnected to talk about the current touring production and career highlights. Bozeman, who joined the company in 2013, has a notable background on and off stage. The dancer speaks mandarin, holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is a trained doula.
Debra Danese: What can audiences expect from this year’s performances that differ from last time?
Jeroboam Bozeman: The audience can expect to be blown away. There are two world premieres. Kyle Abraham’s “Are You in Your Feelings?” is a celebration of black music and culture. Its score is a mixtape of hip hop and R&B, and it explores the relationships that exist amongst a community. The next work is from former principal artist, Jamar Roberts, titled “In a Sentimental Mood.” This intimate duet explores the yearns and desires between couples. The set is simple but absolutely stunning. The music is an original score of Duke Ellington with a twist composed by Rafiq Bhatia.
DD: Which piece in the current program do you find most rewarding to perform?
JB: “Survivors” by Alvin Ailey. The ballet premiered in 1986 and has not been performed since 1988. It explores the turmoil that Nelson and Winnie Mandela experienced during the apartheid era. I feel honored to perform this piece. I was a child during the apartheid, although it didn’t exist in America. I couldn’t deny the correlation of systematic oppression that was occurring in South Africa. It’s important that we continue to share these stories. It’s a part of the world’s history. I’m grateful that I get to assist in telling it.
DD: What does a typical day off on tour look like for you?
JB: I’m super lazy! When I am not performing, I am probably diving into some type of self -care work. It may be sleeping, reading, getting a massage, or just going for a walk in the community I am in. As I get older, I value things that rejuvenate me and my spirit. My peace is just as important to my work.
DD: Your professional credits are impressive. What has been a career highlight?
JB: I have been really fortunate and blessed with many opportunities. Sometimes I pinch myself to see if it’s real. A highlight in my career was that I recently starred in a film by Boaz Yakin. It’s set to be released sometime this year and it was the first film where acting was in the forefront. I was nervous but, it was a fruitful experience. I also have to thank “Philly’s Finest,” Rennie Harris, who I’ve worked with in Philadanco and Alvin Ailey. He was one of the major reasons I was able to star in the film.
DD: In our interview last year, I asked you what piece of advice you would give aspiring dancers. This time, I’d like to ask what was the best advice you were given.
JB: Oh wow!!!! I remember that question. I think last time I was telling folks to get off their phones and into the studios. Hahaha! A mentor of mine, Ms. Wilhemina Taylor, once said, “As you climb the ladder of success, don’t forget to reach back and pull someone with you.”
[The Kimmel Cultural Campus presents the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St] February 24-26, 2023; kimmelculturalcampus.org