Kirven Douthit-Boyd Assumes Leadership of St. Louis’ Big Muddy Dance Company

October 26, 2022

In July, Kirven Douthit-Boyd became The Big Muddy Dance Company’s artistic director. He moved to St. Louis in 2015, serving as co-director of the city’s renowned dance training program at the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) alongside his husband, fellow Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater alum Antonio Douthit-Boyd. Kirven’s curatorial debut with Big Muddy is October 28, when the company opens its 2022–23 season with new works by Norbert De La Cruz III, Thang Dao, company members Geoff Alexander and Brandon Fink—and a piece of his own.

Has artistic direction always been your goal?

When I got to COCA, I knew early on that I was not going to be able to do this from behind a desk. Me talking to development about numbers was never going to be enough to feed this community. I knew that I needed to cast my net out, so to speak, if I was going to be a good leader. I continued to grow and develop. I choreographed on Big Muddy and others. I got my master’s degree. I got to a place where it was time for me to honor the personal work that I’d done. I started applying around the country, and I had incredible conversations with folks at different agencies and companies. I got far in a lot of those searches. That, for me—even though I didn’t land that stuff—was like, Okay, you’re onto something.

The Big Muddy Dance Company artistic director Kirven Douthit-Boyd sitting on a turquoise chair.
Kirven Douthit-Boyd. Photo by Kelly Pratt Photography, courtesy Big Muddy Dance Company.

After Brian Enos’ departure from Big Muddy in December 2021, you agreed to serve one season as an artistic advisor. Did you think, then, that you would apply for the job?

Not at all! Actually, what I said at the time was “Please let me serve on your panel in the interview process.”

The season starts in COCA’s gorgeous new performance space, the Berges Theatre. Is a relationship between Big Muddy and COCA planned?

COCA built an incredible space for dance, so it makes perfect sense for us to showcase our dancers there. I’m shifting­ to a part-time position at the Center, and I’ll teach some, because I love these kids and still want to be in the room with them. In terms of other work with COCA, that’s going to be a continued dialogue.

What is your vision for the company?

There are two things simultaneously developing. One is engaging diverse artists to create on the company and elevating the caliber of the artistic experience for both the artists and the audience. Then there’s the actual artists that I’m working with. Something that I made very clear very early on was that we have to diversify the ensemble. We just have to do it.

Big Muddy’s goal has been to raise the profile of St. Louis dance nationally. How does your vision fit into that?

We’re not and we don’t have to be in competition with anyone else. We are at a place where we can craft these ideas, make them make sense and make sure the caliber and quality of the work is professional. Local collaborations with the who’s who of the arts scene in St. Louis—that makes sense for us. The minute that we stop to look at what everyone else is doing, we’re missing the mark here.