Antonio is a St. Louis native and COCA alumnus who began his training with the organization as a teen before beginning a career path that included stints with Dance Theatre of Harlem and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal prior to Ailey. Kirven trained at the Boston Arts Academy and danced with Battleworks Dance Company and Parsons Dance Company before joining Ailey.
The men are known as two of the top dancers in the world. In December, the New York Times published a review of Ailey’s current season, which began, “Among the many superb dancers of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Antonio Douthit-Boyd has recently risen to a special magnificence… he’s in his prime.”
“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 the past nine years, both Antonio and Kirven have returned “home” to COCA as visiting choreographers each January during their break from touring with Ailey to work with and mentor young dance students, which has served as a precursor for their new, permanent roles with the organization.
“St. Louis is my home town. I learned to dance at COCA and grew up here in many ways,” said Antonio. “I am ready to bring what I’ve learned dancing on international stages to the COCA students.”
“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.”
In their newly established roles, Antonio and Kirven will manage all aspects of COCA’s renowned Pre-Professional Dance Division, including two of COCA’s student companies, COCAdance and Ballet Eclectica. The two will also teach various classes as part of COCA's dance curriculum.
“They are joining a great team,” said Pollock. “Our Pre-Professional Dance Division has a wonderful track record - for the past decade, 100 percent of COCA’s senior dance students have graduated with post-secondary plans, whether to attend a university or a professional training program – many being the first in their families to go to college.”
The COCA Pre-Professional Division is a socioeconomically and racially diverse program with students representing 47 zip codes from throughout St. Louis, providing sequential, advanced curriculum to students who have seriously committed to training in dance. Students in the Division receive extensive support services to remove barriers to participation, including scholarships, financial aid, free dancewear and shoes, transportation and access to academic and SAT/ACT tutoring. This Division exists within the broader COCA dance department, which offers classes for dance students of all ages and abilities.
Current Director of Dance, Amy Scheers, who has been instrumental in developing the COCA dance program, including the Pre-Professional Division, to its current level of success, will assume the role of Director of Program Design and Production – a newly created position designed to support and manage ongoing artistic excellence across COCA programs. She will also be a key mentor to Antonio and Kirven as they transition into their new roles.
Lee Nolting, a founding faculty member of COCA, will step into the role of Artistic Director Emerita of COCAdance, working closely with Antonio and Kirven on the future of this important student company.
“A really special part of the transition is the fact that Antonio will be working hand in hand with Lee Nolting, under whose guidance he began his dance training,” said Pollock.
Antonio and Kirven just completed their final New York season with Alvin Ailey and will complete their farewell tour – of North American and international locations – with the company before relocating to St. Louis in the fall of 2015 to begin their work at COCA. In the interim, Antonio and Kirven will complete an annual residency with COCA dance students this January and be in close contact with the COCA team regarding artistic vision and decisions.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Antonio Douthit-Boyd began his dance training at age 16 at COCA under the direction of Ms. Lee Nolting. Lacking resources, but blessed with natural talent, Antonio received dance instruction and comprehensive support services from COCA. This beginning as a “COCA kid” started him on a path that would include training with the North Carolina School of the Arts, the Joffrey Ballet School and San Francisco Ballet. He would go on to dance as a soloist with Dance Theatre of Harlem and with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, and finally join the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, with which he has been a principal dancer for 11 years.
Kirven Douthit-Boyd began his formal dance training at the Boston Arts Academy and joined Boston Youth Moves in 1999. He trained on scholarship at the Boston Conservatory and at The Ailey School. Kirven has danced with Battleworks Dance Company, Parsons Dance Company, and Ailey II. His path converged with Antonio’s in 2004 at Ailey, where, he, too, has been a principal dancer for 11 years.
COCA-Center of Creative Arts is a non-profit community arts center with a mission to enrich lives and build community through the arts. COCA connects our community to the arts through programs that emphasize social and artistic diversity, economic and cultural accessibility, hands-on experience of the artistic process, and the highest quality in our faculty. Founded in 1986, COCA is a national leader in innovative community arts education. COCA annually serves more than 50,000 area residents of all ages through multidisciplinary, multi-cultural arts programs that include educational classes, camps and workshops, both on-site and in community venues; COCAbiz; COCAedu; COCA Presents; and exhibitions of contemporary art in the Millstone Gallery.