‘Me, Myself and You’: Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s Poetic Dance of Love and Remembrance

Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish Photo by Ernest S. Mandap

Amidst the celebration of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 65th anniversary season, Filipina American choreographer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, a former Ailey company member, introduces her captivating work, “Me, Myself and You.” Premiered on Dec. 7 and running until Dec. 31 at the New York City Center, the mesmerizing duet delves into themes of reminiscence, love, and passion.

The genesis of Roxas-Dobrish’s latest piece was an introduction by Robert Battle to Brandie Sutton’s operatic rendition of “In A Sentimental Mood.” Asked to craft a short dance piece, a pause between longer performances, Roxas-Dobrish seized the opportunity with a resounding “Yes!”

Reflecting on the uniqueness of the Alvin Ailey Company, she emphasizes its commitment to the theatrical aspect, paying homage to Mr. Ailey’s legacy.

“In this piece, the music speaks for itself as a story. I envisioned a woman, perhaps in her bedroom, holding on to an item that reminds her of either a past love or someone who might have moved on,” she shared. “As she opens her vanity mirror, she reminisces about a moment in time. As she begins to dance thinking of him, he somehow emerges from the mirror and catches her as she falls. They then go into a dreamlike duet of love and remembrance.”

The choreographer’s tale where the boundary between reality and dream blurs sets forth new questions. Was it all a dream? Did he come from another dimension? And can she follow him now into the mirror and enter another world?

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Caroline Dartey and James Gilmer in Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s ‘Me Myself and You’’. Photos by Paul Kolnik

Addressing her return to the Ailey family, Roxas-Dobrish dismisses the notion of merely returning; instead, she embraces the idea of life’s cyclical nature. “Sometimes one has to leave to be able to come back,” she told the Asian Journal.

Acknowledging her age as a reflection of the company’s 65-year journey, she humorously intertwines her Filipino roots with her Ailey tribe, expressing gratitude for the weaving circles of her life within the Ailey loom. “I may be Filipino and my people are my countrymen but my tribe is definitely Ailey,” she said.

Though Roxas-Dobrish’s creations have primarily resonated with the Ailey Organization’s repertoire, she acknowledges the influence of her cultural background in her latest piece. “My history of dance and theater have always been connected with the Ailey Organization,” she noted.

In her creative journey, Roxas-Dobrish meticulously documents each choreographic endeavor in a dedicated book, capturing the intricate details from musical choices to conceptual ideas, and even sketching out imagined lifts, whether practical or whimsical.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Caroline Dartey and James Gilmer in Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s ‘Me Myself and You’’. Photos by Paul Kolnik

“I like to use the word bespoke, for I look at each project totally differently and create for whatever the project calls for,” she explained. “Looking back at the pieces I’ve done so far, there isn’t one piece that looks like any other.“

Her artistic process commences with storytelling, a practice she tailors to fit the context of each project, weaving narratives, whether literal or abstract, that guide her musical selections.

“I hope to leave the audience with a feeling, to touch their hearts and move them,” she shared. The challenge in “Me, Myself and You” lies not just in steps but in conveying a compelling storyline, a feat she trusts the exceptional Ailey dancers to accomplish.

As the company celebrates its 65th anniversary, Roxas-Dobrish, at 65 herself, is honored to contribute. Her career’s trajectory began at the Ailey School, continued with her membership in the Ailey company, and later saw her return to teach the Horton technique. Now, having choreographed for both the 2nd and 1st Company, she finds herself humbled by the depth of her involvement.

While she never actively sought out choreography, her passion lies in projects that resonate with her, a sentiment that has guided her artistic pursuits. She thrives on collaboration, engaging with diverse artists and contributing to several short dance films via virtual platforms. She fondly recalls the privilege of hearing Mr. Ailey’s words, dancing in his beautifully poetic ballets, and cherishes the profound moment when he walked her down the aisle. The indelible imprint Mr. Ailey left on her life serves as a poignant reminder of her enduring connection to the Ailey legacy.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Caroline Dartey and James Gilmer in Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish’s ‘Me Myself and You’’. Photos by Paul Kolnik

Roxas-Dobrish’s ultimate goal is for the audience not just to see her choreography but to feel its profound impact. With a dedication to storytelling and a masterful expression of emotions through dance, she aims to leave a lasting impression. As “Me, Myself and You” embarks on a national tour as part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 65th-anniversary celebrations, she looks forward to weaving more circles and continuing to share powerful stories through her unique choreographic lens.

Momar G. Visaya

Momar G. Visaya is the Executive Editor of the Asian Journal. You can reach him at [email protected].

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