An Interview with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Antonio Douthit
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER has changed the perception of dance in America and will be performing at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, Knight Theater at Levine Center for the Arts, May 15-20, Tickets are on sale now at Blumenthal box office: 704 472-1000.
Growing up in New York, I never had the chance, but I always had the desire to see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Alvin Ailey dance seemed exciting, fluid and more encompassing than ballet, or modern dance.
Living in Charlotte, I now have a special opportunity to see ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER. They will be offering more than one program for fans. I caught up with dancer, Antonio Douthit to talk about the repertory company.
LAW: As a boy in St. Louis, Missouri, what started you dancing?
AD: I fell upon dance. I was with my friends in the city and we heard music coming from an open window on the second floor of a dance studio. We followed the sound and entered. The teacher asked us to leave, but we didn’t, we stayed and watched. After that, I started taking lessons at that dance studio. I was sixteen-year-old.
LAW: What training have you had that stands out the most in making you the dancer you are today?
AD: Um… All of it. All of the training, Ailey, jazz, hip-hop, ballet,… all of it prepared me.
LAW: What brought you to dance at the North Carolina School of Art?
AD: I spent one year at the university after high school.
LAW: When did ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER first come on to your radar?
AD: When I was sixteen, the same year I started taking dance in St. Louis with Angela Corbertson. At that time, I didn’t know I could make a career with dance. Then I saw Alvin Ailey.
LAW: When did you get to become a member of Alvin Ailey?
AD: I was a member of the Dance Theatre of Harlem and I became a member of Alvin Ailey in 2004.
LAW: What sets Alvin Ailey apart from other dance troupes?
AD: We’re a repertory company. Choreographers from all over the world come to Alvin Ailey. We get to work with so many different artists, choreographers and so many different styles of dance.
LAW: Do you think the ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER has stayed true to the mission of Mr. Ailey?
AD: I believe Mr. Ailey would be very pleased and it has turned out to be more than he imagined. It is now connected with Fordham University. Students who study dance can earn a bachelor’s degree. Along with training professional dancers, Alvin Ailey gives back to the community with public outreach and lessons for every level of dancer including Zumba lessons. I think he would be very proud.
LAW: When did you go to New York?
AD: When I was nineteen to dance with the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
LAW: What was your most memorable job?
AD: My most memorable job was dancing while in high school at the outdoor Muny Theater in St. Louis. I was late to one of my performances. I learned a great lesson that day; don’t be late! I was never late again.
LAW: Can you tell me about what I will see when I come to the show? Is it is different on different nights?
AD: Yes, we do a different program on different nights because our fans come back to see more. We mix it up, there’s hip-hop and the classics like Ailey’s water ballet and “Minus 16” and “Revelations”. “Revelations” has been performed for 52 years. It is the most seen ballet in all the world.
LAW: How do you emotionally connect to the theme and your character in dance?
AD: I go to a place, a tangible place that connects the human spirit and the soul. I don’t dance ethereal, or ‘make believe’ characters.
LAW: What’s your favorite number in the show?
AD: “Revelations” is my favorite.
LAW: Tell me about a typical performance day, how do you prepare emotionally and physically to perform?
AD:I go to the gym for forty-five minutes and lift weights. Rehearsal is usually at 3:00 p.m. We have a class with warm-up. I prepare one hour mentally before a performance. The performance is usually from 7:30-10:30 p.m. and then I do it all again the next day.
LAW: Why do you think you were chosen for this?
AD: I don’t know. Artistic Director, Ms. [Judith] Jamison was looking at one man and one woman. I am very grateful she chose me.
LAW: What has been your best experience with the show?
AD: Dance “Minor 16,” the audience is involved.
LAW: Where is home?
AD: St. Louis, Missouri and New York.
LAW: What is your favorite thing to do when you are there?
AD: I go back to NYC, [laugh] rest… And play with my puppies, I have two dogs.
LAW: Have you ever been to Charlotte Before?
AD: Yes, I‘ve been to Charlotte three times. I love staying at the Omni [Hotel] downtown.
LAW: What’s the best experience you’ve had on the road?
AD: Going and exploring different areas and seeing how places have changed and grown since I was last there. And I people watch wherever I go.
LAW: What was the worst?
AD: Being away from my dogs too long. I miss them.
LAW: For the child who is interested in becoming a dancer, how would you advise them?
AD: Always follow the dream. Keep going and a door will open eventually.
I am looking forward to seeing Antonio Douthit's spirit and soul through dance.