Name: Hope Boykin
Location: New York City
Occupation: Choreographer, Dancer, Teacher
Hope Boykin spends her days with grace, both demonstrating it on stage and teaching her students how to best embody it. A New York transplant by way of Durham, North Carolina, Hope is a longtime member of the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She’s a ballerina and a choreographer with an ardent love of helping others to better express themselves through dance.
Activity has always been important to Hope, so it’s no surprise that her career became a product of movement. “Dance and gymnastics were a part of my life since I was about three years old. My mother has always said that, after taking me to see a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as a young child, I imitated the movements and danced around the house,” she says.
Becoming a member of Ailey was a long path, fraught with difficulties that she’s grateful for in hindsight. After studying at Howard University and working as an apprentice with Lloyd Whitmore’s New World Dance Company, Hope was invited to visit studios in New York while on winter break. She was determined to succeed in Manhattan, so she committed to studying at Alvin Ailey’s school for over a year, and auditioning as a way to broaden her educational horizons. At this point she danced with other companies, including Complexions and Philadanco, but she returned to New York, doggedly in pursuit of a spot with the Ailey company. In 1999, she auditioned…and didn’t make it. Ambitious, undaunted, and filled with the meaning of her name, Hope returned the following year to audition and was accepted. “I would absolutely live my story all over again,” she says.
Her work with Alvin Ailey has given her the opportunity to visit different places all over the globe. “The most interesting part has been seeing so many different cultures, and to learn that dance plays such a strong role in breaking language, cultural, and even societal barriers. Two weeks after 9/11 the company traveled internationally, and the loving response we received from anyone who knew we were American was amazing.”
Nowadays, Hope continues her quest, traveling the world with the Alvin Ailey troupe and bringing the joy of dance to audiences everywhere. When she’s not dancing or practicing a routine, she’s teaching her students and choreographing other works. “I have always thought that the way one’s lives their dance, is the way he or she will live their lives,” Hope says. “I often tell my students, that we are first human, then women and men, and then dancers.”
Hope has definitely dealt with struggles, even after her dream began to be recognized. “My career has always had “body issues” linked to it,” she says. “I remember a review in a noted periodical even stating, “…with her un-orthodox physique,…” and “…she has honed thighs, a football player would be proud of.” There will always be those critics who want us to fit into a mold or a category, but I am glad to be able to demonstrate that even without the so-called “perfect” dancer’s body, anything and everything is possible.” Anyone who is blessed enough to see Hope perform will bear witness to the union of elegance and expression through a body’s movement. It’s breathtaking, and it’s why we think Hope is a very Cool Girl!
Hope is about to start her twelfth season as a dancer with Alvin Ailey, and she’s recently been commissioned by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to choreograph a new piece for her former dance company, Philadanco, also known as The Philadelphia Dance Company. You can see her at HopeBoykinDance.org, on Facebook, and, of course, on AlvinAiley.org. If you also happen to be in Oslo, you’ll have the opportunity to attend a workshop series taught by Hope when Alvin Ailey travels to Norway at the end of June.