By The New York Times
AR was 11 when he first saw ballet. It was a video of the New York City Ballet dancers Heather Watts and Mel Tomlinson, in Balanchine’s radical 1957 ballet “Agon,” the dancers clad in minimal leotards and tights, performing spiky, extraordinary movements to Stravinsky’s astringent score. Mr. R, an outgoing, talkative boy from the Bronx, knew right away what he thought. “That’s the ballet I want to dance, and that’s the company I’m going to get into,” he said.
Mr. R, 33, danced that role in “Agon” twice this season, a part he has performed since 2011. He has been a principal at City Ballet since 2009, dancing a remarkably wide range of roles, and has long been a favorite for the creation of new ballets. But it is relatively recently that Mr. R has entirely come into his own, showing a new technical refinement and polish that have embellished the dynamism and muscular attack of his dancing.
Reviewing Justin Peck’s new “Rodeo” in The New York Times in February, Alastair Macaulay wrote, “Mr. R, who in the last two years has become an endearing and central artist at City Ballet, seems to carry whole sections on the tide of his immense good humor and large-scaled prowess.”
The path from the Bronx to Lincoln Center was not an obvious one. Mr. R’s father, a former Marine who worked as a computer technician, is of Trinidadian-Indian ancestry; his mother, who was a nurse, is from Puerto Rico. “No one knew anything about ballet in my family,” Mr. R said in an interview backstage at the David H. Koch Theater, where City Ballet performs. “My father didn’t prevent me from doing it, but he didn’t make it easy.”
Mr. R is tall with an athletic build and a ready smile. He retains his boyish eagerness and enthusiasm, and it’s easy to imagine him as an active, engaging child who was the storytelling champion of his elementary school and a prizewinning debater. When he was 10, a music teacher suggested he audition for Tada! Youth Theater, which selected children from schools in the five boroughs to perform in original musicals. Two out of 300 children auditioning in the Bronx were picked; Mr. R was one. His mother, working full time, couldn’t take him to the rehearsals at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side, so Mr. R learned how to use the subway by himself, commuting daily to rehearsals after school.