"For me, this year is about the past, the present and the future," Battle said. "I want to honor the great works of the past that have been important to the company and to the dance field. But I also want to keep the company and our audience on the precipice of discovery."
Toward that end, Battle brought in nine new dancers to fill vacancies in the company — an unusually large number. Dance frequently is choreographed based on dancers with specific bodies and specific skills, so the bodies Battle chose will inevitably determine the future look of the main company. One of his first hires was Green, whom Battle promoted from Ailey's junior troupe.
"I looked for performers who are virtuosic, but also who are flexible and can adapt to many different styles," he said.
"Jacqueline is an exquisite dancer. I remember seeing her perform 'Shards,' an abstract piece by Donald Byrd.' She has a natural maturity. She was able to just be, to present the material with quiet strength and without telegraphing her emotions. I think she's going to go very far."
She already has. When Green tried out for the Baltimore School for the Arts, she was ... well, green.
"Except for one summer camp in middle school, I'd never danced in my life," she said.
But Norma Pera, who heads the high school's dance department, knew immediately that the young girl with the posture of a queen had potential.
"Jacqueline was just a natural, and they don't come along very often," Pera said.
"And the fact that she was so bright and willing to work so hard made a huge difference. She didn't just stand in the studio and learn shapes. She learned how to think through the dance internally."
Green continued her studies at Fordham University. While she was still in college, she started performing with Ailey II and fell in love with the company's repertoire.
"Every dance that Mr. Ailey choreographed feels emotionally moving on the body," she said.
"The movements show you exactly what he was feeling in his soul and heart. It's in the contractions, in how deep you bend an elbow or a leg. Other choreographers do that, too, but I feel it to a greater degree when I dance him."
That's a profound realization, and in a few days, Green will finally have a chance to share that and other insights on stage with her family and friends in the audience. More than a week before the performances, she was already feeling excited and anxious, hopeful and determined.
"I can dance in front of anyone else in the world," Green said. "But when I dance in front of my mom, I get nervous. I want to make her proud. I want to show her: 'Look, this is how you directed my life, and this is how well it came out.' "
If you go
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performs at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, 140 W. Mt. Royal Ave. Tickets are sold out. Call 410-685-5086 or go to http://www.lyricoperahouse.com.
Residence: New York
Job: Became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in 2011
Education: graduated Baltimore School for the Arts, 2007; Fordham University, B.F.A. in dance, 2011.
Catch her in: "Home" and "Revelations" at the Lyric.