Romance will be spinning on Lincoln Center’s stage this season.
Alvin Ailey dancers Michael McBride and Samuel Roberts will perform together for the first time as an engaged couple, though their story dates back eight years when the two joined the company together and were soon paired as roommates on tour.
“I don’t think it will feel any different,” McBride said of performing alongside his fiancé.
The first two years of dancing and boarding together (when not on tour Roberts commuted from Quakertown, Pennsylvania) were chaotic and constantly moving: Intensive rehearsal schedules and whirlwind world tours don’t necessarily lend themselves to roommate bonding time.
In 2011, however, McBride’s sister passed away, causing him to miss the last few weeks of rehearsal before leaping into a 10-week tour overseas. Two weeks into the tour, McBride’s emotions started catching up with him and he turned to his roommate for support. “We realized we had more commonalities than we expected,” McBride said of the first dinner the two of them shared.
In the months that followed, the two danced a duet together in “Arden Court” and a solid friendship began.
By the next tour, Roberts introduced McBride to “Brothers and Sisters,” a show he insisted watching with a glass (or bottle) of wine in hand. After performing, they’d set up a laptop between the two beds, uncork a local red (they’re now bubbly people) and binge watch the series. Eventually, this ritual evolved into going out on dates, though the couple didn’t announce their relationship to the company until they’d been dating for about a year.
“It’s really great to have someone to travel the world with,” McBride said of being able to enjoy the tour with Roberts at his side. While many partnered members of the company leave their families at home as they tour, this couple reaps the benefits of working together in a job that constantly changes locations.
The most memorable choreography of the dancing duo’s relationship may be from the surprise proposal flash mob Roberts planned in January.
“Michael is a very particular man,” Roberts joked of his idea to propose with such gravitas. “And I’m a really big cheese-ball,” McBride added. The two had watched videos of similar proposals online — and are also fans of “Glee” — so Roberts knew spontaneous choreography was really the only way he could propose.
The day of the proposal, Roberts covertly held an hourlong dress rehearsal at Locksmith Burger Bar (the couple’s local hangout) while a friend distracted McBride — the two were scheduled to depart on a road trip to Key West that night — before they grabbed an inconspicuous bite and the flash mob proposal kicked off.
While the couple loves a good party, they’re doing the very New York thing of “invest first, party later,” purchasing their first condo on Grand Concourse this summer. It will be their first time living together in an apartment with a door, perhaps the most notable change in their relationship as the curtain rises this season.
IF YOU GO: The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs June 14-18 at Lincoln Center. Performance schedule and further details at alvinailey.org