Robert Battle is the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
He was raised in Liberty City by his cousin Dessie Horne, who he calls his mother. Horne is a deeply spiritual woman who helped shape his love for the arts.
Battle rarely lets an interview go by without mentioning her impact on him.
She’s his biggest cheerleader and his inspiration.
On a recent afternoon, Battle and Horne sat down at the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City and reminisced.
Listen to the conversation below:
From a very young age, Robert Battle would watch Dessie Horne perform with a theater troupe she belonged to called "The Afro-Americans." An educator by profession, Horne always had a dream to become an actress. On her Liberty City porch she and her friends would act out scripts and recite monologues all while a young Robert Battle sat by -- entranced by it all.
Robert Battle didn't start dancing until he was in high school, a late start in the dance world. He danced at Miami Northwestern High and then New World School of the Arts.
In his Liberty City neighborhood, he was sometimes bullied by neighborhood kids for being a dancer.
Battle's family supported his dancing and watched him grow artistically. Horne said she didn't know she was raising the future director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; she just wanted him to shine.
The Alvin Ailey dance company will be performing at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts Feb. 18-21. For more information, visit arshtcenter.org