A Conversation with Hope Boykin of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

It wasn’t until Dwight Rhoden handed her a check for her first performance with Complexions that Hope Boykin realized it was possible to earn a living from dance. “I was like, ‘What is this?’” she says. “That was my first paid performance gig. I had no idea that was the beginning of my professional life.”

During the 20 years that followed, Boykin has had her struggles—her weight, for one. The directors of both Philadanco and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater requested that she lose weight before letting her perform. But Boykin decided to greet every challenge as an opportunity for growth. She recently celebrated 15 years with the Ailey company. A special program honored her as part of AAADT’s winter season.

Keeping her dancing fresh “I can count on both hands and maybe a couple of toes the times I’ve started out not feeling like it. And in the middle, I realize this is not about me. You have to do it as if the person seeing you is seeing it for the first time. [Ailey artistic director] Robert Battle talks about the first time he saw an Ailey performance at a school show. If I had been in that school show, and I wasn’t feeling like it, then he might not have understood something.”

Finding her place in Philadanco “Joan Myers Brown pulled me into her office and said, ‘I really like you, but you’re gonna have to work on your weight.’ You know that saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’? No, what doesn’t kill you just doesn’t kill you. Because I wasn’t performing, she gave me other opportunities: I helped to roll out the marley floor. I was steaming costumes. I was running rehearsals. She’d have me sub a class. Before you know it, I’m dancing, and she’s sending me out on residencies or having me hold auditions for the company.”

Her favorite Ailey piece “Do you want to hear the typical response, that it’s Revelations? Because it is! [Boykin often leads the opening pyramid in “I Been Buked.”] Revelations is this piece that touches everyone. You go places where people don’t speak your language but they understand movement. It goes beyond the footlights; it’s human. If you’ve seen it, you understand. If you know someone who hasn’t seen it, you buy them a ticket.” DT

Performance: founding member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; danced with Philadanco 1994–2000; joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 2000

Choreography: has created work for AAADT, Philadanco, Dallas Black Dance Theatre

Teaching: guest artist at University of the Arts and Howard University; teaches Horton technique for

The Ailey School

Photo by Richard Calmes, courtesy of AAADT

Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

Keep reading... Show less
Music
Mary Mallaney/USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.