Spotlight: What Ailey's Hope Boykin Says to People Who Don't Think Dance Is A "Real Job"
It may be her eighteenth season with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, but Hope Boykin is showing no signs of slowing down. Not only is she one of the company's most striking performers, but she's proven that she's a choreographer with something to say. The company will dance her powerful 2016 work, r-Evolution, Dream. again during its New York City Center season, which begins tomorrow.
We caught up with her for our "Spotlight" series:
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
That we don't have real jobs. I wouldn't trade a moment of my career, as each experience has groomed me for the next, but is this a real job? Oh yes, it most certainly is.
What other career would you like to try?
I've been standing behind the camera lately as a director and choreographer, and loving every new experience it brings.
What was the last dance performance you saw?
The Ailey/Fordham BFA senior showcase of works by future choreographers. These young artists are on the way to saving the world.
What's the most-played song on your phone?
"Wait For It," sung by my friend Leslie Odom Jr. on the Hamilton soundtrack. [Ed note: He narrates Boykin's r-Evolution, Dream.]
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
The most important one is my prayer. I simply ask that the audience will see the most honest artist in me. Despite the frustrations, feelings, aches and pains I may be experiencing, I long for the best performance to resonate in the hearts of those watching.
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
Snuggling up with my pillow after a long bath. I am a morning person, and my favorite meal is breakfast. There's nothing better than a good night's rest, so that I may start the day with the sun.
What's your favorite book?
Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice
Where did you last vacation?
My annual trip to Miami. I simply love the early morning walks on an almost empty beach and taking my journals to write as the tide comes in and out.
What app do you spend the most time on?
Candy Crush Soda Saga. I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I know I'm not alone.
Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?
I can imagine dancing in Mr. Ailey's classic work Night Creature with one of my best friends, Matthew Rushing. And I'd love a simple dance floor jig with Michael Jackson.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
I will never forget being told that I had learned all I could where I was studying at the time, and that I should go and try something else. Ultimately, that is what I had to do, but I never worked harder to stay on the path I knew was meant for me. I would never speak to a student in such a way, but it didn't deter me. It only pushed me toward my goals.
For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
New York City Ballet principal Sara Mearns wasn't sure she was strong enough. A ballerina who has danced many demanding full-length and contemporary roles, she was about to push herself physically more than she thought was possible.
"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "
She wasn't working with a ballet coach, but with personal trainer Joel Prouty, who was asking her to do squats with a heavier barbell than she'd ever used.
Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"
At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.
Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.