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On the Ground

Holding Up the Mirror

Q & A with Jeroboam Bozeman By Nicole Decsey
  • Bozeman / Photo by Andrew Eccles
  • Samantha Figgins and Jeroboam Bozeman / Photo by Andrew Eccles

To celebrate their sixtieth anniversary, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will embark on their North American tour, beginning in Toronto. On February 1 through 2, the group will perform at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts and will feature Canadian premieres of works choreographed by Jamar Roberts and Rennie Harris, as well as Ailey’s famous work Revelations. The Toronto performances are presented by Civic Theatres Toronto. 

The Dance Current intern Nicole Decsey caught up with company dancer Jeroboam Bozeman before the tour. 

Bozeman began his dance training under Ruth Sistaire at the Ronald Edmonds Learning Center in Brooklyn, New York. He later joined Creative Outlet under Jamel Gaines and was granted full scholarships at the Joffrey Ballet School and Dance Theatre of Harlem. Bozeman is a gold medal recipient from the NAACP ACT-SO Competition in Dance. He performed in Elton John and Tim Rice’s Broadway musical, Aida, (international tour in China) and was a part of Philadanco, Donald Byrd’s Spectrum Dance Theater as well as Ailey II. During the fall of 2016, Bozeman performed as a guest artist with The Royal Ballet and was nominated by Dance Magazine as one of their “25 to Watch” in 2018. He recently received a bachelor’s degree in psychology, concentrating in industrial organization, from Argosy University. Bozeman joined the Ailey company in 2013.                                                            

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Nicole Decsey Your resumé is impressive. How have your dance training and life experiences led you to where you are now?

Jeroboam Bozeman Wow, thank you. I believe that my dance training got me in the door, and my life experiences have shaped me to be the person I am. I remember not having the money to afford summer intensives, but I would go to auditions and try to dance my way to scholarships. I think success is a reflection of the investment you put into yourself. Life has taught me to be unconditionally invested in doing the work. No matter the intensity, working hard was always gratifying.

ND Was there ever a time when you questioned your abilities as a dancer or had any doubts about a career in dance? If so, how did you deal with those moments?

JB I don’t think I would be human if I didn’t have those feelings. My career has been full of moments where I experienced doubt and questioned my abilities. As dancers and in life, we have times when we question if we are enough. The doubt I experienced was rooted in the fear of failing. I have had people tell me that “You don’t have extension like this person. You don’t have a facility like that person. Your feet don’t point like that person. I don’t think dance is for you. I don’t think you could have a successful career as a dancer.” I treated it all as noise. Imagine where I would be if I’d listened.

It may sound crazy, but I always knew I would be a dancer; my passion for it was undeniable and nothing was going to stop me from fulfilling my dream. When I have my moments of doubt, I stop and analyze where it’s stemming from. Doubt can also come from thoughts we have about ourselves. What I have been finding to be therapeutic is journaling and meditating. It keeps me grounded and focused.    

ND How does it feel to be performing a piece like Revelations that has so much history behind it? What is the rehearsal process like for a piece that has been performed so many times by countless talented performers?

JB Revelations is a timeless ballet. Mr. Ailey created works that focused on the African-American experience in American society. The organization has a lineage of incredible artists who have performed it, and it’s an honour to be a part of that lineage. There are many artists that have paved the way for young artists like myself. Performing Revelations is a testament and reminder of what my people have gone through and what they overcame. We’re taught the movement and the story behind it. There are so many roles to perform in Revelations. Whenever a dancer is learning and performing a new one, it always feels like a rite of passage.

ND You auditioned for Alvin Ailey five times. What does it feel like to be a member of their company now?

JB I remember the fifth audition. I was in Ailey II [the junior company], and the audition was the day after our weeklong season had closed. I was physically exhausted and wanted to sleep in. It also didn’t help that Ailey II was going on an international tour the day after the audition. I spoke with Mr. Powell the night before, and I remember his encouraging words. I was exhausted at the audition, so tired that I didn’t have energy to be nervous. I gave myself a little pep talk before going in. I told myself, “I know you’re tired, but you have nothing to prove and everything to share. Have a great time.” When Mr. Battle told me that he was going to hire me, I burst into laughter. I was in disbelief. 

Now that I’m a part of the company, my life has changed drastically. I have been blessed with many opportunities. This organization gives me a platform to create and share my gift. It also gives me a platform to inspire and motivate others to follow their dreams. I believe that was part of Mr. Ailey’s mission. He once said, “I want to help show my people how beautiful they are. I want to hold up the mirror to my audience that says this is the way people can be, this is how open people can be.” This is why I have a deep sense of gratitude in my heart for Alvin Ailey.

ND Have you ever performed in Canada before? If so, do you have any fond memories in Canada that being here brings to mind?

JB I have performed in Canada a few times. I absolutely adore Canada. What’s not to love? There’s an incredible healthcare system and delicious maple syrup. The people are very kind, and it’s an overall peaceful country. A fond memory I have is the outpour of love and support I felt from the audience members each night we performed in Canada. I am very excited to return and share our artistry again.

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