Photo by Andrew Eccles
If you’re a fan of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater you’ve seen Hope Boykin: beautiful, bald, brown-skinned, powerhouse body. That’s Hope. For the past 17 years she’s been captivating Ailey audiences with her dance moves, and now she’s stretching out even further with “r-Evolution, Dream.” the new ballet she choreographed, inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King.
Boasting an original score by jazz great Ali Jackson, historical and original text narrated by “Hamilton” Tony Award winner Leslie Odom Jr., ‘r-Evolution, Dream.’ is exuberant and bursting with color. No surprise that it received a standing ovation when it debuted at New York City Center on December 9th.
Photo by Matt Karas
We recently caught up with Hope between performances- as a member of the Ailey Company she still performs in other ballets- to chat about “r-Evolution, Dream.” overcoming early challenges, and what’s next for her.
MadameNoire (MN): How long did it take to prepare ‘r-Evolution, Dream.’ and how do you feel now that it has premiered?
Hope: Every free moment that I had from a year-and-a-half ago to the premiere went into thinking and working on it. I feel great because I’ve had a chance to sit back and watch the work and I don’t think there is anything I would change. I’m not saying that it’s perfect, but every aspect of it was on purpose.
MN: There’s a lot of color in the work. What inspired that?
Hope: I chose different color clothes to represent the different classes of people. The designs, from character-to-character are the same; it’s only the color that separates them. In life, it’s the color of our skin that separates us and sometimes changes how we see each other.
MN: What were some of your early challenges pursuing dance?
Hope: My challenges occurred more as a young adult when I got to college and discovered the hierarchy that comes with skin color within our own community. I was considered too dark so if I performed well people were surprised as if a dark-skinned girl with a stockier build shouldn’t dance well. It was discouraging at times.
Photo by Jerry Metellus
MN: How did you get past that?
Hope: I think there’s a drive in me that didn’t take no for an answer. Instead of keeping me down, it pushed me. My mom may have had something to do with it too because she was always a ‘stand in the front so you don’t make other people’s mistakes’ type of person.
MN: What type of work ethic does it take to get where you are?
Hope: Sometimes I’m even in awe of the amount of work it took and still takes. We have to begin again every day. We have to warm up our bodies, eat well, cross train, build our endurance, and rehearse to the point that we can make a split second decision if something changes on stage.
MN: What’s been the most rewarding part of your career?
Hope: I appreciate when people say that I inspire them or I remind them that they are enough. If I were running for office my mission would be to let people know that they are perfect the way they are and whatever they’ve been given is exactly enough.
MN: What’s next for you?
Hope: I’m already living my “what’s next.” I mentor, I teach, and I’m writing and incorporating other creative outlets into my life every day. I’m not prepping for the end; I’m still beginning. Every day I remind myself to start over again.
To purchase tickets for “r- Evolution, Dream.’” t New York City Center until Dec. 31st, or the North American tour that follows, visit AlvinAiley.org. For more on Hope Boykin visit HopeBoykinDance.com