Hope Boykin. By Matthew Karas
If you’ve seen Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform in the last 12 years, odds are you’ve been mesmerized by Hope Boykin. The petite powerhouse knows how to command a stage, whether she’s sassing her way through Ailey’s Blues Suite or channeling her spiritual side in Ailey’s iconic Revelations.
Boykin fell hard for dance as a youngster, after a gymnastics teacher mentioned it might be a good addition to her training. The Durham, NC, native spent multiple summers studying at the American Dance Festival before enrolling at Howard University in Washington, D.C., where she performed with Lloyd Whitmore’s New World Dance Company. Boykin was one of the founding members of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and a dancer with Philadanco before she joined AAADT in 2000. Today she teaches and choreographs in addition to performing with the company. Catch her and the rest of the Ailey dancers at New York City Center this month. —Margaret Fuhrer
Boykin as a student
The career you’ve chosen is a tough one, and you can be easily distracted from your dreams, so please take this piece of advice: Focus on loving yourself.
Most days you will stand in front of a mirror, half dressed in a leotard and tights, comparing yourself to the dancer next to you, seemingly bombarded with corrections from your teachers. All of that could put your mind and spirit in an uncomfortable place. Unless you love and appreciate yourself, it will be easy to forget about your strengths as you are made aware of your weaknesses.
Love what you have been given. Your body is a temple—not to be worshipped, but to be used to give thanks for its abilities. You will have many chances to share your talents. Somewhere, someone is using you as an example.
Lastly, loving yourself will teach you how important it is to take care of your body. You only have one! Strengthen it, and feed it wholesome foods that protect, nourish and give it energy. This will allow you to look as good as you feel.
Trust me: I learned these things late, but I thank the Lord everyday for all that I have been taught and have experienced. Always give thanks.
I love you.
Much of Janelle Ginestra's career has been about helping others shine. She's dedicated herself to supporting and cheerleading her partner, WilldaBeast Adams; the emerging talents in their dance company, ImmaBEAST; and the countless dancers she inspires at master classes and conventions. Her YouTube channel has become a launching pad for young talents like "Fraternal Twins" Larsen Thompson and Taylor Hatala, thanks to viral videos featuring Ginestra's creative vision.
But Ginestra's a skyrocketing success in her own right—an in-demand choreographer, a social media influencer, and a dance entrepreneur, building a legacy one eight-count at a time. It's time for her turn in the spotlight. And she's more than ready. "I want to be a legend in whatever I do," she says. We'd argue that she already is.
If you've ever seen a Janelle Ginestra class video, you know how lit her combos are. What you don't see in those clips is how devoted Ginestra is to her students. We went behind the scenes at one of her sold-out IMMA SPACE classes to see Ginestra in her element, mentoring some of L.A.'s most talented dancers. It was an inspiration feedback loop.
All photos by Joe Toreno.
In our "Dear Katie" series, former NYCB soloist Kathryn Morgan answers your pressing dance questions. Have something you want to ask Katie? Email email@example.com for a chance to be featured!
I love ballet, and I've been told that I have a lot of potential. I can see myself dancing professionally one day. But I'm also working toward my black belt in karate—and I'm passionate about that, too. How can I keep up my technique while also making time for the other things I love? Is that even possible?
What do you get when you combine a Beyoncé anthem, fierce girls from all over the world, and choreography by legends like Ellenore Scott and Lamar Lee? You get the epic music video below. The viral video features little girls who live everywhere from Tanzania to Washington D.C. dancing and lip-syncing to Queen Bey's song "Freedom," and the result is electrifying. These littles can dance—and they bring a determination and enthusiasm to their movement that's truly inspiring.