2020 is a big year. It’s a year that kicks off a new decade, a presidential election year, and a year for crowning summer Olympians. All in all, it’s a year of change and celebration, and the same is true when it comes to the arts, especially in Chicago. It happens to be a monumental anniversary year for one of the city’s most iconic theaters—the Auditorium Theatre. In its 130 years of programming, the Auditorium Theatre has presented some of the dance world’s most beloved and influential artists, including Isadora Duncan, Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes, and Martha Graham Dance Company to name a few.
The Auditorium continues its legacy of bringing world-class artists to Chicago, including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—a company that made its debut on the Auditorium stage just over 50 years ago. Within Ailey, there are many milestones to celebrate, including the 20th and final season of dancer Hope Boykin. Prior to joining Ailey in 2000, Boykin spent six years with Philadanco (the Philadelphia Dance Company) and was a founding member of Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
Hope Boykin already has plans past her final season with Ailey to continue motivating, creating and educating, but first she has one final (and very busy) touring schedule to complete.
While Boykin celebrates the end of a monumental chapter of her career, she is ready and poised for what is on the horizon. In fact, she has been honing and nurturing the other facets of her career all along. Her artistic expression and the development of her personal movement language have evolved in tandem with her skills as a dance educator, notably as part of the faculty at USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance as an Artist in Residence for the 2019-2020 academic year. As a choreographer, she has created dance for numerous companies including Philadanco, University of the Arts, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Minnesota Dance Theater, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as works for her own company, HopeBoykinDance. With every artistic endeavor, she also inhabits the role of motivator, passing inspiration to others through her passion for sharing the truth and wisdom of her experiences.
Hope Boykin already has plans past her final season with Ailey to continue motivating, creating and educating, but first she has one final (and very busy) touring schedule to complete. In the midst of the touring madness, DancerMusic Editor Kristi Licera caught up with Hope between performances to get an inside look at what she looks forward to sharing with Chicago audiences as she takes the stage with the company at the Auditorium Theatre for the final time. Here’s what she told us:
Chicago audiences know us, love us, and expect the very best, which is what I am determined to give them in my 20th and final season with Ailey.
Kristi Licera: Throughout your career with Ailey, you’ve toured through Chicago many times, performing at the Auditorium, getting to know the city, and making new connections and friendships that are sure to stand the test of time. Can you flash back with us to some of your memories performing at the Auditorium? What are you most looking forward to on this leg of the tour?
Hope Boykin: Performing at the Auditorium has been a real experience for the past 20 years.
I have learned so much about the city, met friends, taught master classes, and developed family I never would have if not for the company. Chicago is on the short list of cities both I and the company look forward to each year. Chicago audiences know us, love us, and expect the very best, which is what I am determined to give them in my 20th and final season with Ailey.
This stop each year fuels something in me, even when it’s cold. I have shops I must visit, restaurants I share with new company members, and walks I must take just because.
My thoughts and prayers before performing any work are always, “Lord, please let me share all of me without doubt or fear as You would have me perform.”
Kristi: Ailey’s Program B—performed on Thursday, March 5 and Sunday, March 8—features A Case of You, by Judith Jamison (Artistic Director Emerita). This emotional duet holds a special place in your heart and career, as you had the opportunity to be part of its original creative process. How has your experience performing A Case of You evolved since its original premiere?
Hope: Chicago audiences have been able to see me perform classic and iconic works, especially one of my favorites (besides A Case of You by Judith Jamison. Wow.
When I think of first time I was able to share my love for this particular work in Chicago, I was so nervous. First of all, I was dancing with Clifton Brown, and that’s enough to make you sweat a little, LOL. But seriously, the amount of wonderful dance support from other institutions, schools, and even former Ailey dancers living in the area is great—but it doesn’t mean the pressure isn’t huge. We often say we do this dance thing for ourselves, and that is true. But as an artist who is here to serve, I want audiences to love what they see, appreciate what they see, feel something, and take something away. My thoughts and prayers before performing any work are always, “Lord, please let me share all of me without doubt or fear as You would have me perform.”
That’s what it’s all about right? I think so.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at Chicago’s historic Auditorium Theatre (50 E Ida B Wells Dr) March 4-8, 2020. The company offers Chicago audiences four different programs, featuring works by Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Robert Battle, Jamar Roberts, Lar Lubovitch, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Donald Byrd, and Ronald K. Brown.
For more information on the programs and to purchase tickets, visit tickets.auditoriumtheatre.org.
To learn more about Hope and keep up with her on her journey, visit hopeboykindance.com.