This week, Antonio Douthit-Boyd is taking the first steps in a full-circle journey as he assumes the role of co-director of the Center of Creative Arts (COCA) dance department.
He’s probably danced 10,000 miles since being scooped up by COCA as a 16-year-old with an undeniable natural talent for movement.
Blessed with a storied performance career that culminated last summer as a principal dancer for the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Douthit-Boyd has remained a constant presence at COCA – and a poster child for what’s possible when a village rallies around the gifts of its young people nurtures them beyond their circumstances.
“In COCA I found several mothers, fathers, aunts and uncles and people I never thought I would come across in my lifetime,” Antonio said. “People keep saying, ‘Welcome home, welcome home.’ But since the moment I left COCA, I’ve always been here. I’ve never spent a year away from COCA.”
He has indeed been a constant presence, bringing some of the best dancers in the world with him to leading workshops and classes –including his husband, fellow Ailey alum Kirven Douthit-Boyd.
In January, it was announced that the couple would step away from the stage to assume the newly created roles at COCA.
Just two months after their final bows with Ailey, Antonio and Kirven have assumed full-time roles as co-directors of COCA’s dance department.
They will manage all aspects of COCA’s Dance Department, including the renowned Pre-Professional Dance Division, and two of COCA’s student companies, COCA Dance and Ballet Eclectica. The two will also teach classes as part of COCA's dance curriculum.
“It is truly amazing that Antonio and Kirven are choosing to retire at the peak of their careers in order to devote themselves to educating the next generation of dancers here at COCA,” said Kelly Pollock, Executive Director of COCA. “Plus, to have Antonio back home as a member of our staff, after watching him accomplish so much since his time at COCA as a student, makes it all the more meaningful.”
For Antonio, the move is fulfilling a promise he’s repeatedly made over the course of a storied career that saw him as a company member of Dance Theatre of Harlem and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal in addition to Ailey.
Anyone who has ever had a conversation with him about his future knows that paying his gifts forward by sharing them has always been a part of the plan.
“I’m so grateful that COCA has given me a gift that I can now give back and share with others,” Antonio said. “I am thrilled to be coming to a place that elevates new talent and inspires a love for dance in people of all ages.”
As his partner in life and in work, Kirven is equally excited for what lies ahead.
“I grew up dancing at a very similar organization, so I know the tremendous value of a place like COCA to a community,” said Kirven. “We’ve been watching COCA become a national model for community arts centers, especially in dance, and we’re ready to build upon that momentum to take St. Louis dance training to the next level.”
Antonio beams at the thought of his new beginning. He exudes pure joy by simply speaking on guiding aspiring young artists and equipping them with the tools to become great dancers – and good people.
“Coming back always inspires me,” Antonio said. “It is so exciting to me that I now have the opportunity to stay here and stay inspired – and inspire others.”