Boston-Bred Dancer Kirven Douthit-Boyd Discusses Leaving Alvin Ailey
Kirven Douthit-Boyd was a 13-year-old freshman at the Boston Arts Academy when he witnessed an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance for the first time. This weekend, the 30-year-old Dorchester native, who’s spent the last 11 years as a first company member, will join Alvin Ailey in Boston for the last time, dancing in a string of farewell hometown performances at the Citi Wang Theatre.
“Every year it’s really exciting to come to Boston, to dance for all my family and friends. It’s going to be really kind of bittersweet to do it one last time,” Kirven says. “At the same time, it is my last time doing all of this, but I kind of can’t think of it as a farewell because of the responsibility. That’s what’s more important than the actual nature of what’s happening—the fact that I still have to be up there at my best. I can’t get boggled down by the fact that this is the last time I’m going to be doing these things because as of right now, I’m still employed as a dancer, so I have to dance well.”
Indeed, following the Boston performances this weekend, Kirven’s commitment to Alvin Ailey is still quite a way from over. He and husband Antonio Douthit-Boyd, a fellow Alvin Ailey dancer, will finish out the company’s North American tour, which culminates with a set of performances at New York City’s Lincoln Center in June, and then spend July performing with the company in Paris. After taking their final bow with Alvin Ailey, they’ll fly back to their current home base in New York before relocating to St. Louis.
In August, the Douthit-Boyds will begin a new endeavor as co-directors of the Center for Creative Arts’ dance program.
“I’m really just looking forward to settling down for a bit, and being in one place for a while,” Kirven says.
There’s more than just new jobs awaiting the couple in St. Louis. They’ve been playing phone tag with contractors in between rehearsals and performances, and in September, they’ll be able to move into their brand-new house, currently being built from the ground up—a welcome change of pace from the couple’s current 500-square-foot New York City apartment.
In their new positions at COCA, the couple plans to revitalize the dance program using a similar approach—building from the ground up. Kirven will take charge of the modern jazz programs, while Antonio will oversee ballet. But together, they aim to increase overall opportunities for the students, who range from babies to high schoolers, to learn a variety of choreography from high-quality choreographers.
“There’s a big dance staff, but one of the things that we really want to do is get a core, solid group of dance educators. A lot of the faculty members now teach for a little bit and then not again for a while, and we think that’s one of the most important things in training young artists—consistency as far as what the kids are learning, and who they’re learning from,” Kirven says.
Both of the Douthit-Boyds are able to draw from their own experiences in youth-oriented dance programs. While attending the Boston Arts Academy, Kirven was dually enrolled in the Boston Conservatory, trained with Boston Youth Moves, and spent summers at the Ailey School. Antonio, on the other hand, grew up in St. Louis, and began his dance training at COCA. For more than a decade, the Douthit-Boyds have made an annual trip to Missouri to choreograph a piece for the program.
“It’s a relationship that we’ve been building for years with COCA, and as we’ve gotten to learn about the organization and the kids and what goes on there, we saw how much of an impact we could make if we were able to be there year-round,” Kirven says. “Once we got to a place where we felt like we were done with what we’re doing at this capacity at Ailey, we had a really good conversation with [COCA’s] executive director, and she gave us an offer, and we accepted.”
While he’s not completely ruling out performing in favor of teaching, Kirven firmly believes that his and Antonio’s time with Alvin Ailey has come to a close—at least for now.
“Antonio and I have so many career ambitions as far as what we want to do with our lives, and I think that doing this now, leaving with this memory of us that everyone will have once we’re gone, will make it easier for us later on in life if we ever wanted to come back and do something—either coaching or teaching—within the Ailey organization. I think that’s definitely something that much, much, much later in life we would really want to entertain,” he says. “I’ve always said that I wanted to leave Ailey at the top of my game. As an artist, you never want to be wished off the stage. You never want to overstay your welcome.”
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform at the Citi Wang Theatre on March 26-29, presented by Celebrity Series of Boston. For tickets and more information, visit celebrityseries.org.