At the tender age of 16, Antonio Douthit-Boyd experienced the epic performance mastery that is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The physicality, emotion and human connection he felt from the professional dancers was unmatched. In that moment, the St. Louis native knew what he wanted to do with his life. He followed his dream and achieved the rare feat of being chosen for the world-famous dance company. Douthit-Boyd took a breather from his hectic Alvin Ailey tour schedule to talk with LN about his first dance steps in St. Louis, bringing the company’s new tour back to his hometown through Dance St. Louis, and carrying real-life experiences onto some of the most acclaimed international stages.
What is your first memory of dancing?
I was always the kid dancing everywhere whenever I heard music—from Michael Jackson to Whitney Houston. Everyone was always like, Oh Antonio, dance!
Where has your dance career taken you?
I started dancing when I was 16 at COCA, then I attended the North Carolina School of the Arts for a year, and I went to Dance Theatre of Harlem, where I was a soloist for three years. Now, I’ve been with Alvin Ailey for 11 years.
How did you come to be in the Alvin Ailey company?
One of the dancers left to go on tour for Beyoncé, so Alvin Ailey had an emergency audition. Out of this sea of guys, I was the only one picked and got to join right away. So, my joining Alvin Ailey is all thanks to Beyoncé!
Describe the experience of being on the international stage as part of Alvin Ailey.
When I first started dancing, I thought it would be amazing to see all these fantastic places. And now I’m blessed to be able to travel from China to Denmark, and perform for the queen there. To be able to share what we experience in America with these other countries and hear the crowd’s response back to the company is just phenomenal.
Describe your rehearsal and workout schedules.
Our choreographer Robert Battle keeps us very, very busy. We’ve been on tour since the last week of January and we won’t touch down for a break until August. But we try to do swimming, karate, yoga, cardio and weight-training, so our bodies can stay in tip-top shape—and it’s important to take advantage of sleeping whenever you have time.
How do you stay on top of your dance game?
You always take classes and look everywhere around you, take the good and bad from every situation, and learn from the person dancing next to you or the even the person who might be struggling on something. You stay open to change, and figure out something different you can work on each year to stay relevant within the company and within your own struggles of being a better dancer.
Describe the experience of performing live onstage as part of Alvin Ailey.
When I’m onstage, even after performing with Alvin Ailey all these years, I have these weird butterflies. But once the curtain goes up, the lights go on, and the audience gets to enjoy the experience with us, it’s otherworldly. I can’t really put it into words.
What do you hope audiences feel when you are performing in St. Louis?
I hope they can take pride in watching their own St. Louis product onstage. We have all the training you need in St. Louis, and I hope they can see that the arts community we built here is actually doing a great service.
Tell us about the highlights of this year’s show.
For Lift, you just have to see it to get the nature of the beast. You have all these men on stage bare-chested, and there’s the musicality and physicality of it all. And Alicia Graf Mack and I will be partnering to dance Pas de Duke, which I love. I also will be doing I Wanna Be Ready—that’s going to be exciting. It’s going to be a fantastic performance.
How is Alvin Ailey at a different level than other dance companies?
People should come just to experience great theater and great dance. The company is better than ever. Whether you’re seeing Alvin Ailey for the first time or 10th time, you will really enjoy what the company is doing these days.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
WHEN: 8 p.m. April 25-26
WHERE: Fox Theatre
DETAILS: Performing Lift, D-Man in the Waters (Part I), Another Night, Pas de Duke, The River and Revelations
INFO & TICKETS: 534-111 or dancestlouis.org