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Antonio Douthit-Boyd talks about his career at Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
TimeOut New York

By Gia Kourlas

Antonio Douthit-Boyd lights up Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Antonio Douthit-Boyd is one of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's most riveting members. (He also happens to grace the company's poster this year.) As he matures as a dancer, Douthit-Boyd looks for inspiration in Ailey veterans Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims, as well as through the guidance of associate artistic director Masazumi Chaya. In this interview, he discusses his incredibly busy City Center season and more.

At a rehearsal for D-Man in the Waters (Part I), choreographer Bill T. Jones watches Antonio Douthit-Boyd swing a leg in quick succession over each of his two female partners, before landing, between them, in a split. “I did that once,” Jones says admiringly. Douthit-Boyd, 32, a member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater since 2004, can do a lot of things; this season, along with D-Man, he’s featured in Chroma, Pas de Duke and The River. Really, he’s in just about everything. If you see the Ailey poster in the subway, take note: That’s Douthit-Boyd, showing some leg.

How do you find out you make the cover of the Ailey season?
It was really weird. We were in the middle of rehearsal one day. My husband, Kirven [Douthit-Boyd], was on the poster in 2012. I remember him being called out of the room. He came back and was like [Whispers], “Robert just told me I’m on the poster, don’t tell anyone.” Alicia [Graf Mack] was on the poster last year. This year, we were in the middle of rehearsal, and I wasn’t thinking about the poster or any of the photos we took for the season brochure; someone said, “Robert is looking for you.” I was like, “What does he want? Did I do something?” I went to his office and he said, “I have something to show you.” He had the pictures on his wall backward, and he turned one around and I screamed and cussed loudly. He said, “That’s the first time I’ve gotten that reaction.” But it was great. To see it and then to see it around the city—I think that’s even better. Ahhhh!

Why? Does being on the Ailey poster change your outlook?
Every dancer will say it’s not about the accolades, it’s about the work, and it is about the work, but sometimes you want to see that portrait of yourself. When it happens, it’s almost surreal. You have to step up to the plate, because everyone’s looking at you. Not that I’ve ever been a slacker, but you want to see yourself in a different place each year. So reinventing myself is kind of what this poster has done for me. It’s really hard, because I’m cast in so many ballets. When I start to get tired in rehearsal, and [associate artistic director Masazumi] Chaya’s like, “You look really great, just keep it going,” I’m always like, I feel like crap, this looks like crap, don’t tell me that. I’m not watching myself, but it just feels like there’s so much; but there are times when I can step away and watch another cast and it’s easier to see where I’m having troubles. So I can fix myself by watching other people.

Do you talk to other dancers like Linda Celeste Sims, who has danced a ton of roles for years?
I talk to Matthew Rushing and Linda a lot. Linda and I are partnered up in Chroma so we’ve been having a lot of separate rehearsals from everyone else. We’ll take ourselves aside and talk through the movement. This is our first time really being featured together. I’ll ask her how she paces herself, because sometimes she will dance four ballets a night. She says, “Sometimes you have to give 100 [percent], but you can’t give that 110 that your body knows it can do, because you have three other ballets after that.” I can take that to heart. I’m the kind of dancer that likes to hit everything. I attack everything, but as I get older, Matthew’s letting me know that you can scale back—because your energy is so high, people still see it so you don’t have to force your way through the wall. It’s like, let them into your world. It’s hard to hear that because sometimes you feel like you’re marking and not giving your all, but it looks more refined to the eye. So that is trying to resonate in my head. I still find myself pushing to that 110, and I get exhausted really quickly, and then I find a way to pull it back, because I know I have a lot of other ballets to do.

Can you see how Matthew does that? Maybe you’re moving into the space of figuring out that kind of presence.
It’s a whole other element of dance. When you see him dance, it almost looks like he’s underwater sometimes. We started a mentoring program together.

Really? What is it?
It’s ASAP: Ailey Students and Ailey Professionals. Matthew and I came together because a student of mine from St. Louis—where I teach when I’m off in January—was in the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program, but disappeared for a while and we were like, where is he? He wouldn’t answer the phone, so I ended up calling his mother; she told me that he went through something with school and he had to be taken out of the program. Out of nowhere he was gone. I was like, if there was a way for younger dancers to communicate with professionals, then they might last longer. It’s a foreign world when they come to New York from a place like St. Louis; maybe they need someone who they can call when things are rough. This is our third year doing the program. Students apply; we get a huge number of essays and go through each application to figure out which student is paired up with a dancer in the company. This year, we have 22 company members mentoring students. Amazingly, the kid who we started the program for is back in the school now and in the mentoring program this year. So hanging out with Matthew and seeing him in that light and talking to him on the side about dance gives me a lot of insight on what I need to do to get to where he has gotten.

You aren’t that dancer’s mentor, are you?
Oh no. We knew each other from my studio. I was his first circus teacher. I was working at a circus camp—you know the summer jobs they give students in schools because they’re trying to raise money to go off to different summer programs? I had to raise money to go off to San Francisco Ballet one summer, and he was in the circus camp. I mentored and coached him all through high school until he came to the Fordham program. It would be kind of odd for me to be like, Oh, that’s going to be my kid! We know each other. But my mentee this year is really cool; he’s from Chicago and we have a lot of similarities in our backgrounds, growing up with families who weren’t so supportive of dance. We relate that way.

How do they mentor you?
It’s odd. Matthew and I always say when we pair people up that the students can sometimes help us as professionals. Sometimes we get so tunnel-vision in our own careers that we start to forget why we started doing this. Sometimes being around younger people, you start to go, Oh yeah, I remember that feeling. They kind of do mentor us in a way; they help us to mentor them, which is a give-give situation.

Tell me about Chroma. Have you seen it?
I saw Chroma on YouTube performed by the Royal Ballet. I was like, This is amazing! That year, we went to London and Wayne’s company was having a workshop; you could take their company class and participate a little bit in his rehearsals, because he was doing a study filming dancers and seeing how bodies moved within the space, so he had cameras in every corner of the studio. I took their company class and then got back to the theater for my rehearsals and class and to do my show; Chaya said, “If it’s on your own time, go do it.” So every morning, I would wake up, go to Wayne’s ballet class—I couldn’t do any of the rehearsals, because I had to get back to the theater. And I never got to see Wayne because someone else would teach the ballet class. But I got to experience the environment. Then, the Australian Ballet was here, and they were premiering one of Wayne’s ballets; I saw him coming out of the theater and said, “Oh my God, I took your workshop, and I’m really impressed with you,” and he said, “What’s your name?” I told him that I danced for Alvin Ailey, and he said, “That’s really interesting. I’m coming to see you tomorrow.” I texted Chaya. He said, “I didn’t want to tell anyone, but Wayne’s coming to watch rehearsal.” Wayne had contacted Ailey to ask if he could do a ballet on us because he was very interested in the company; mind you, the company had been watching his works and hoping that one day we would do one of his ballets, but he contacted us. Chaya had been watching Chroma for a while and asked if we could do Chroma. Somehow it all happened. It was freaky.

I wonder why he was interested in Ailey.
I don’t know. When we spoke to him, he was like, “I always wanted to work with the company.” It all worked out. They wanted a new work, but because of our short rehearsal time... This process has been unbelievable. He came in the first day and cast the ballet and left. We haven’t seen Wayne since he cast the ballet in June or July. Antoine [Vereecken] has been with us, and he’s phenomenal. It’s almost like hearing it from Wayne’s mouth. He keeps saying, “Take everything I say, but know that next week when Wayne comes in, it’s going to be totally different.” We get a week with him, we’re off for Thanksgiving and then we premiere it.

What is your part?
I open the ballet with Linda Celeste Sims. It’s weird partnering. It’s not the traditional “you pick the girl up, you put her down”; he tries to explore dance in outer realms—if these are your fingertips, he wants you to go way out there, and when you’re working with a partner, he wants both of you to do this within the strenuous partnering. It’s hard. That’s an understatement. But it’s going to put the company in a good light.

How is it out of the norm?
We are a very athletic company, but you’re going to see the athleticism and the ballet technique with the modern-dance technique that you don’t normally come to see the Ailey company do—like [Jiri Kylian’s] Petite Mort. You think, Oh, ABT or City Ballet would do that. It’s pushing us that way. We are a repertory company, and we can do these things. It’s not that we have to do just Revelations or just Ron Brown. It shows the audience, Oh, they can go from doing Ron Brown’s movement to Wayne McGregor’s movement; it puts us up there where more choreographers will be like, Oh I would love to see what I could do with that company. Not that they haven’t been doing that, but it gets broader.

It’s developing more, it really is.
I would definitely say so. Over the last three or four years, Robert [Battle, artistic director] has brought some works that make dancers hungry to dance. Just the fact that we’re going to do Chroma and Petite Mort in the same season—it’s like, I’m not in a contemporary ballet company, but I’m still in the company I love to dance for; and on top of that, we’re still doing all of the other dances that makes this company relevant. It makes me very happy.

Because it feels like you’re in the world of dance and not the modern dance—
Bubble. Definitely. Dance evolves; why can’t the company evolve with the dance? Robert asks us, “What are you looking at this week? What companies are you seeing? What do you want to do?” He’s very good at trying to find out what our interests are.

Do you go and see a lot?
I see a lot of dance. Sometimes I’m like [to Kirven], “Can we not go tonight?” Just because we do so much dance. I’m going to be completely honest: Sometimes you can’t really enjoy it, because you’re trying to pick apart this and that. You’re always putting yourself in dancer mode, so now when we go to the theater, we have to find something to inspire us to go back to work the next day. You can’t go with, “Her foot wasn’t pointed” or “Her leg wasn’t straight” or “Did you see, she only did two pirouettes?” There’s so much more; we don’t know what the dancers went through during the day. They may have hurt themselves. The audience shouldn’t see the background story, but there’s a lot that goes into getting to the stage. Sometimes when someone stumbles, you have to be forgiving. We dance through injuries; you never know who’s out there dancing injured. Now I go into the theater, and I’m like, relax. If something doesn’t go well, you can’t be like, Well I don’t ever want to come see this again. [Laughs] But I tend to see a lot of dance.

I would love to see more Twyla Tharp on this company. And Alexei Ratmansky.
I think he’s a genius. And it’s weird, because he pushes out a lot of ballets every year—you would think after a choreographer has done so much that he wouldn’t know how to reinvent himself so quickly, but he finds a way to do it. I really enjoy watching his work.

For some reason, I think his work would be good here: he is all about precision, but also really getting into the floor and using weight—ballet dancers don’t all have that, especially at ABT. City Ballet is better dancing his work.
It’s the speed. City Ballet has the speed. They’re not afraid to be gutsy. Maybe one day he’ll give us a shot. I would love to do it. We’re gonna put that in the universe.

You never know. Maybe he sits around googling himself. Going back to Chroma, did attending McGregor’s ballet class help you nail his energetic way of moving?
I would say no. [Laughs] His movement is almost alien—it’s almost not human. You know humans are doing the work, but then you look at it and go, How the hell did he get them to do that? I don’t think anything prepares you for it other than throwing yourself into the work. And I am blessed that they gave me Linda. She’s a workaholic. We’ll pull ourselves out of ballet class at 11:30am and go upstairs and rehearse before we start rehearsal at noon. If we’re having a problem the day before, we’ll figure it out the next day. It’s really good to have a partner who you don’t butt heads with. I’m working with her a lot more this year. We’re doing “Twin Cities” in The River, which is the last pas de deux.

Have you danced that part before? 
No. I’ve done every other role in The River. This is my third time bringing The River back since I’ve been in the company. It’s the last duet in the ballet, and there are two pools of light. The woman dances in one pool, and the man dances in the other. At one point the pools of light go away and you see the dancers in the center of the stage. Mr. Ailey set the ballet on ABT, and the movement is so organic. It’s what you don’t normally get out of his work. I love The River. It shows his choreography in a different way; it’s not your Blues Suite [1958] or Masekela [Language, 1969]. It’s so balletic, but it’s also so modern dance. He was genius. Balanchine was genius as well: how they could infuse the two and make it work for the genre they were in. When Mr. Ailey set it on ABT, the dancers were in pointe shoes, but when he put it on flat, he made a lot of adjustments for the Ailey company. But now that the dancers have evolved, Chaya is pushing us to do the same timing ABT did in a pointe shoe, where you can move much more quickly than you can in a flat shoe. He pushes the girls in “Vortex” to do more pirouettes and to push the timing so that it’s original. I’m excited. This version is really fresh. Chaya went back to really old videos. So what I thought I knew, I didn’t know. He said, “If you want to see this version, look at this tape.” The timing was exactly what he said it was. Fast. [Laughs] A lot faster and a lot more musical.

Are you dancing Pas de Duke?
Yes, with Linda. I did Pas de Duke my second and third years in the company when it came back, and I felt so out of control. I was like, Why are they making me do this? I can’t do this, this is so hard…I kept hearing Chaya say, “You can do this.” And it went away and came back, and Alicia Graf and I were doing it at different galas and things. I enjoy dancing with her; she’s my best friend. When he officially brought it back to the repertory, he was like, “Your partner’s going to be Linda now.” I was like, Okay. This is a seasoned dancer, and she’s been doing this part for quite some time. It felt like second nature; she was very warm and open to me. It was like, “Let’s try this” and “Let’s fix this timing here.” It wasn’t like, “Do what I say do.”

The pas de deux was created for Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. How do you make this role your own when it has such baggage or history?
I think Ms. Jamison and Baryshnikov gave it their own spin, but there were other dancers who did it after them who gave it their own spin, so you kind of take a little bit from everybody. You figure out, “I’m going to add my little flair in there.” Chaya leaves it open; at the end, there’s a series of jumps that happen, and he doesn’t choreograph them for you. He says, “Do your best jump here, do your best trick there.” It gives you a little room to say, I’m going to do a helicopter here and a double assemblé there. It gives me enough space to stamp, this is mine now. Sometimes Chaya will say, “I want you to do a double saut de basque here.” I’ll try it; each time, he watches, he says, “I think you can do this.” Sometimes I’m stubborn and say, “Chaya, I’m good at this one—let me just do this jump.” He tries to push me.

He’s a persistent Japanese man.
Yeah! He’s like, “I think you can do it.” You’re like, “Chaya, there are people watching. I don’t want to try it in front of people.” [Laughs] He has a great eye for dance, and a great way of pushing you to your next level. How are you going to make yourself a lot different from what you were the first year?

Do you talk to him about things like that?
Yes. Chaya is on my speed dial. He makes me DVDs of different dance companies too. He tries to keep us relevant with what’s going on. He’s more up to date with what’s going on in the dance world than I think any of us are. He sees so much dance and has DVDs from everywhere.

Talk to me about Bill T. Jones’s D-Man in the Waters.
I saw D-Man on YouTube. It seemed very different for the company. It’s a lot like some of Mr. Ailey’s works: It’s humans doing real dance, and it’s very pedestrian, but there’s so much to it. Some of the partnering is hard; the girls are catching the guys, I have to jump into Hope [Boykin] and Alicia’s arms, and they’re trying to catch me horizontally as I jump across the stage.

I love watching Hope.
Oh my God. She’s like, “Just give me most of your weight—I know Alicia can’t catch you, but I’ll catch you.” [Laughs]

She’s sturdy.
She’s so sturdy, and she catches my entire torso. For never doing Bill’s work, I’m happy that this was the first one I was introduced to. The company did Fever Swamp in ’99. With Bill’s work, you have to dive in there, but there’s so much real life you can put into his work. There’s so much of you and your human spirit. You don’t have to feel like, I have to do these five pirouettes. He makes you focus on other things, and because others have done it, you want to make sure you’re giving the story that he gave us. I’m excited to dive into that and not feel the pressure of, Oh my God, they’re looking to see if my foot’s pointed. It’s a different challenge, and I think the company’s up for it.

Do you identify with any Ailey dancers from the past?
Before I got into the company, people would say, “You remind us so much of Desmond Richardson.” I would be like, not really…

Not at all.
Two or three years ago, when I started doing “Ready” more often [“I Wanna Be Ready” from Revelations], Chaya kept saying, “You remind me so much of Dudley Williams.” I was like, What does that mean? Then I saw Dudley. He rehearsed us in “Song for You” [from Love Songs, 1972], and I saw that a lot of the traits he has, I have.

I want you to talk about your background. You started dancing late, right?
Yes, at 16. I walked into Angela Culbertson’s studio and then I ended up going to COCA [Center of Creative Arts] and I stayed there until I graduated high school, and I was also doing Alexandra School of Ballet. I went to North Carolina School of the Arts, where Melissa Hayden was like, “You know, these are high-school kids and you’re in college. If you really want to do ballet, you shouldn’t be here.” Back then, I was like, she’s knows what she’s talking about—let me go and see what I can get. Went to DTH [Dance Theatre of Harlem]; she knew Arthur Mitchell well. Mr. Mitchell gave me a job and I stayed there for three years—why am I rushing the whole story?

You’ve probably told it a lot.
We had an orientation the other day and some of the kids were like, “How did you get to Ailey?” This will tie in to that whole thing. Each year I was at DTH, I was that kind of kid that wanted to audition for everything. So I was in the corps de ballet and went to audition for the Joffrey my first year. I said, “Mr. Mitchell, the Joffrey gave me a contract. I think I’m going to leave.” He was like, “No, I’m going to promote you to demi-soloist this year—you should stay around.” It wasn’t that I kept trying to be promoted to anything; I was like, “Mr. Mitchell, I auditioned for Norwegian National Ballet. I got the job.” He said, “No. I’m going to promote you to soloist this year, you should stick around.” It looked like to everyone that I was going in with some kind of offer for him to promote me to something, but that’s not what it was. I loved DTH, but I always knew there was something else I wanted to do. I kept auditioning for these things and when Ailey had that emergency audition for one man that year, I said, I’ll see what’s going to happen. I got the job, and Ms. Jamison asked, “Do you have a job?” I said, “Yes.” She said, “Where do you work?” I said, “Dance Theatre of Harlem.” She said, “No, no, no. Go talk to Mr. Mitchell. See what he says and if he says you can get out of your contract, you can come.” Mr. Mitchell finally let me out of my contract and I came—

Wait—how did you talk him into that?
It was a lot of talking. The next year the company did close, but we were fine. We were touring and working and he was kind of like, “You know, if you want to leave, go ahead.” The first day. I thought I was in the clear. I was like, I’ll give my two-week notice; we had performances at Foxwoods and New Jersey Performing Arts Center. I thought I would just finish those performances. The next day I came into work, he was like, “You know, it’s not going to go down like that. Meet me in my office.” He said, “You cannot leave this company, you’re like my son, what are you trying to do, you’re trying to kill me.” I was like, “No, Mr. Mitchell…” He was like, “You can’t get out of your contract. I’m going to call her and tell her not to hire you.” He did call Ms. Jamison, and she told me much later that he called her and said, “This kid signs contracts and he just doesn’t go with his word, he’s going to do the same thing to you.” I was like, “No—right now I want to do so much more than just ballet.” He was like, “We’re doing this ballet called St. Louis Woman, and you want to be on Broadway, this is going to go to Broadway.

That was a real winner.
[Laughs] He said, “Balanchine had works on Broadway—you can be in a ballet company and do all these different things.” I said, “I think Ailey is more my speed. That’s where I should be.” He was like, “Well, what are they doing down there? I was like, “Chaya said they are doing Donald McKayle’s Rainbow ’Round My Shoulder and [Billy Wilson’s] The Winter in Lisbon.” Ms. Jamison’s Hymn was that year, too. He said, “Donald McKayle, I mean that’s great that they’re doing that, but none of that other stuff is worth you going down there for.” I was like, “I just want to see for myself.” He said, “You’ll see, you’ll see. You’ll be back here.” I’m happy that Ms. Jamison took a chance on me. I was that kid that literally auditioned for every company that came through New York. Nine times out of ten I got a contract or I got to the end, and they would ask, “Do you have a job?” I would be like, “I was just taking the class” or something. I was telling the mentees, if you’re gonna put yourself out there, know what companies you’re going to audition for and be ready to take a job. I was signing contracts!

At Norwegian National Ballet, Espen Giljane was very upset; I auditioned with another dancer in the company and we both got jobs. We were going to really go! I didn’t think Mr. Mitchell was going to keep me at DTH. And I believed everything he said. He had big ideas about what the company was going to do, and I believed in the vision of the company so I stayed and Espen was like, “I should sue you guys—you signed contracts, I got visas for you guys to come over here” and it was his first year taking over. I was like, “Never ever sign someone’s contract and not be ready to take the job.” It took me a long time to realize that the dance world is so small and everyone knows everybody. The funny thing about the Espen Giljane story is that the company went to Norway and performed at the opera house. Espen and Sharon [Luckman, formerly the executive director of the Ailey company] were talking about something and he saw me in the hallway—this was seven or eight years later—and he was like, “You’re Antonio.” He told the story to Sharon; I saw him the next day and I apologized for the way I handled the situation and told him that I was young and going through things with Mr. Mitchell, and he was like, “I understand. You’re still a beautiful dancer.” I said, “I just want you to really understand that was the young me and I’m not that person, and I’m sorry that I put you through that.” I was happy that I got to rectify that situation, because that was really bad judgment on my part.

It probably weighed on you.
It did. When I found out we were going to Norway, the whole time I was wondering if I was going to run into him. I didn’t even realize we were dancing at the opera house of the Norwegian National Ballet; we went there and it was like his name is on the wall, his face is on the wall, you’re gonna see him. And we’re going back to Norway. So I’m happy I cleared that air. I told the kids, “Don’t do that.” But you live and you learn. I was 19 or 20. When Mr. Mitchell took me into the company, I knew that I wasn’t ready for a professional ballet company, but he was like, “I can make anyone a dancer.” [Laughs] He always used to say that. He said, “All you have to do is listen.” I listened to everything he said. So when he said, “I want you to stay here, I want to invest in you,” you know, I don’t know what Espen’s going to do with me over there, so if this man is saying he’s going to invest in me, why don’t I just stay here?” Should have talked to him before I signed the contract, but…you live and you learn. I got to come here. They were in their season already at City Center. Chaya gave me a bunch of videos. If a dancer was off that day, he would have a dancer try to teach me something in the studio, but it was very rare that someone was off, so I learned five ballets by myself from video; we had two weeks of rehearsal in January, because the company’s off for three weeks at the end of the season and then I went on the road and was dancing with them. Chaya was like, “I really like you. You learned all this by yourself?” I had nothing to do for six weeks. I should be able to pick up five ballets. It was just spacing here and there, but I was ready to go after the two weeks of rehearsal.

Was it a total shift from DTH?
Yes, because at DTH we spent more time in the studio—we rehearsed a lot—at Ailey, it was more like, “Learn it. We’re on the road.” We tend to be on the road like six months out of the year, so that was a big adjustment. DTH toured, but never this much. Rehearsals were a lot more intense at Ailey, but they were shorter. At DTH, we had months of rehearsing until we hit the stage. Would I say I like one way more than the other? No. I think they were both valid for what they did. Ballet companies rehearse longer to prepare for their seasons; at Ailey, you get three weeks to learn a ballet and you might be onstage the fourth week doing it. But they’re intense rehearsals and Chaya is a very good director, and Ms. Jamison was great and Matthew and Linda are really great, if they have downtime, to help you out with roles that you’re having problems with.

How much is Robert Battle in the studio?
He’s in the studio a lot, but not as much as Judi. He’s new, and he has a board member who wants to take him out here; he has to get new board members. The other day, we had a group of prospective donors who were watching rehearsal and Robert had to leave to go out with them. It’s the beginnings for him. He has to put his face out there so people know who he is when we go to different cities. I feel like we lack seeing him in the studio, but he’s not not there because he doesn’t want to be. We understand that he has to be away. We would want him to be there more. You can’t get everything. We would like to have our paychecks on Fridays, so…. [Laughs] Do what you have to do. Chaya’s good right now.

What’s most important to you about your dancing?
Now that I’m older, the most important thing is to stay genuine. A lot of times I get onstage and put so much energy out there: Hey, I’m here, I’m here! Look at my leg, look at my foot, look at me! But now I’m in the space where I want the audience to enjoy what I’m enjoying. I want them to enjoy the experience that I’m having onstage. In these coming years I want to have the audience enjoy my experience. That we take the same journey together. Instead of me forcing myself upon the audience like, Love me, love me, love me, I think I just want to do me. You enjoy me. And that’s it.

Who had that effect on you?
A lot of it is from Matthew. And Linda. If you see her in the studio, she’s often in the back: This is my zone, this is me. And when you see her dance, you don’t necessarily think she was out there tonight dancing her heart out; you love her because of the beauty that she has. She’s not forcing you to love her. Matthew: You just look at him, and you want to fall in love. He doesn’t have to do anything. I want to be that person where the most simple things make you stand out. Not the big, flashy things anymore. I think as we get older, or as I have gotten older, I realize it’s the smaller things that count, it’s the transitions that count.

Did starting late have any impact on the way you see yourself as a dancer now?
I think it was an advantage. I started late, but I got to skip a lot of things—which was bad, because now I go back and try to refine things that I didn’t get, but it gave me the chance to propel past some of the kids who were starting much younger but were the same age as me. I wasn’t afraid to do certain things, because my body didn’t know what was right or wrong. If someone said, “Do something,” I was going to just do it. That fear of, I’m going to hurt myself—that’s not technically correct. I was just like, Okay. And later I learned, I can do this with this technique or by turning this leg out or from the knowledge of how to correctly land from something. I was fearless. I was that kind of kid who would just do anything anywhere.