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Alvin Ailey's Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd Are a Killer Teaching Team

Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff, courtesy of Douthit-Boyd)

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!

Antonio and Kirven teach class at COCAPhoto by Peter Wochniak (courtesy of Center of Creative Arts)

Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Antonio Douthit-Boyd have a marriage that is swoon-worthy. The two world-class veterans of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have traveled the world performing and living their dreams together. Once the couple retired from the stage in 2015, they chose to bring their talents to the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) in St. Louis, Missouri, where Antonio had danced as a teenager.

Kirven: At the beginning, we honestly didn't like each other. We had a kind of male rivalry going on, and we just weren't interested at all. As time went on, though, we got to know each other by traveling together with the company, and we discovered that we were both kind people and that we really liked each other. We dated for eight years before we decided to get married. Our wedding was at City Hall, and we had a big party at the Ailey building with our close friends and family.

Kirven: We had been coming to COCA to teach workshops for years while we were in Ailey. Each time we came, we noticed that there was a lot of talent to be developed here. We just kept thinking, "What could we do for them if we were here and working with them full-time?" We felt a need to make an impact on the city of St. Louis, and so in 2015 we moved here to teach. We feel a strong need to give back, and this is how we are choosing to do it.

Antonio: Kirven's ability to focus on minute details is a huge strength. He can zero in on what a student needs to work on to have a breakthrough. He doesn't let children give up or settle for less than excellence. He pushes them in a healthy way. He doesn't act like a dictator or incite fear in them. He's a nurturer who genuinely wants his students to succeed.

Kirven: I think the most important thing our students can learn from us is that they are ultimately accountable for their own success. We will push them and encourage them, but at the end of the day, we can't make them put in the effort. Whether they dance or not, I hope they leave us with an understanding of accountability.

Antonio: What Kirven and I have found in striving to be successful teachers is that we need to be honest with our students. We need to tell them the truth about their potential to reach their goals, and where they stand in the world of dance. We never discourage them from pursuing a path, but we also recognize that not everyone can be a professional ballet dancer. That being said, there are other options and different solutions that we can help them achieve, if we tell them the truth and guide them toward their dreams.

Kirven: It's nice to be with someone who completely understands your frustrations and your joys because they are going through it all at the same time. We are always on the same page, and never get tired of talking about what we both feel passionately about—which is dancing and teaching. We can talk about it constantly and honestly never get bored. I love it.

Meet the four other couples including Simon Ball and Frances Perez-Ball, Randi Kemper and Hefa Tuita, Allison Holker and Stephen "tWitch" Boss and Allison DeBona and Rex Tilton.

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How does your studio handle enrollment for boys? Photo courtesy of Shona Roebuck

I recently set up a classical ballet partnering master class for my youth dance company. A pas de deux class, if you will—think Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker, etc., chock full of promenades, pirouettes and lifts.

I knew we would have plenty of girls interested in signing up, but enlisting boys is always a challenge.

Without much thought, we offered it for free to boys who attended because, here's the thing: no boys = no class. At least, in a ballet partnering class—every Sugar Plum Fairy needs a Cavalier, right?

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Photo by Sean Boyd, courtesy of White

Julie Hammond White is an associate professor at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she directs the dance education BFA. Here, the mother of two (Townsend, 10, and Dominic, 7) takes us through a typical week of juggling her personal and professional life. We caught up with White in October on the first day of work after her fall break. —Jill Randall


6:30–10 am Up and trying to rouse the boys. Throw in a load of laundry, pack lunches, set out uniforms. Drop kids off at school and head to the library. Finish planning advanced ballet.

10:30–11 Read 99 (?!) work e-mails. Taking a few days off is a bad idea…

11 am–12:30 pm Teach advanced ballet. I'm doing what I call "vitamin phrases": 2- to 3-minute phrases that focus on one aspect of ballet (this week, petit allégro).

12:40–1:55 Teach Methods in Dance Education. This is a course that all juniors, regardless of their major (performance/choreography or dance ed), must take to learn how to effectively teach dance in K–12, studios, higher education or community programs.

3:30–4 Grab a quick salad at restaurant across the street. Read letters from the promotion committee—passed the first stage of being recommended for full professor!

4–6 Grade DED 360 papers. These take a while. DED 360 is one of two writing- and speaking-intensive classes for the major. In their papers, students comment on eight areas of diversity as defined by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and find a media resource that addresses each to compare and contrast their views.

7–8 Grocery: bread, cantaloupe, Go-GURTS, apples, bananas, peanut butter, Nutella, pasta, cheese and oatmeal.

8–9 Laundry. Three loads. Also do a quick pickup of the house.

9 Boys home from day with Dad. They shower, brush teeth and set out their clothes for tomorrow. I sign homework and read them a story. Hugs and kisses, then bed by 10 pm.

10–10:30 More e-mails. Bed.

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