Welcome to our new series: Traveling While Female. Every month we will interview a woman that embodies both a creative and entrepreneurial spirit. We will explore what inspires them when on the road and learn about their travel routine. Our latest guest is Hope Boykin, dancer/choreographer and company member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater since 2000.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and how did you become an Alvin Ailey dancer?
My name is Hope Boykin and I have been in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 16 years. I am originally from Durham, North Carolina and I have been dancing for most of my life and I believe, in my spirit, that I’ve always been an Ailey dancer. My mother took me to see the company when I was just four or five years old –– so it’s always been a part of me.
What do you love most about your job? And what are the biggest challenges?
What I love most about my career, is that I’m able to travel throughout this country and the world and bridge the gap between the culture lines. Meeting so many fans, so many young dancers and artists; so many who have a true love of dance seals it all with a kiss. Knowing that I am able to share my gifts and talents with audiences, and in classrooms as I teach, or choreograph is truly a blessing in itself.
I believe that the challenges fall mostly in being away from home. Home is a familiar place, at home there is comfort. There is comfort in your home, your friends, and your family. Although technology definitely helps close the space and the miles between home and hotel rooms I would have to say that missing what is familiar in my home environment, is what I find the most difficult. But… I wouldn’t change a thing.
How often do you travel and what is your travel routine?
As a member of this company I would say we travel about eight months out of every year. I have several routines that I follow one of which I would not recommend.
I absolutely believe arriving early at any bus call or airport call is imperative. I completely agree with the idea that if you arrive early you are on time. Arriving early to the airport affords you the opportunity to get through security smoothly, sit down, take your time, grab a coffee, and even try for seat upgrade. But when you push things to the very last minute you often feel frenzied and frustrated.
When I arrived at various hotels, I make it a point to unpack. Just knowing that I have my clothes hanging in the closet and prepared for the next few day’s adventures gives me peace of mind.
Another very special part of my routine is finding a drugstore that sells large bags of Epsom salts. I make sure to take baths and ice my aching bones at least once a day.
The part of my routine that I would not recommend is the packing part. Because I want to make sure to arrive early one would think that I would pack my bags the night before to ensure that I was prepared. But guess what? I am a packing procrastinator. I can’t explain it but there it is. Don’t do it.
Among the countries you have visited to perform, what is your favorite and why?
I love to travel and I love visiting new and faraway places, but I must say that traveling to France especially to Paris has shown me I have found another home. Our audiences at the theater are so welcoming and loving that it makes it easy to perform, but some of the most special people I’ve met and acquired through these long years of traveling have proven to be life long friends. Visiting familiar restaurants, sitting on your favorite corner, grabbing a tea or coffee with someone you haven’t seen in two or three years, picking up where you left off, is priceless.
What does an “average” day look like when you are on the road and not on stage?
I am not just a mover but I am an educator and a creator. I find myself sharing my gifts with as many young artists as I can. It is so fulfilling to see into the eyes of those who are willing to learn, as they reach to catch every word that pours out of me. I am often called teach and choreograph when I arrive in various cities and towns across the country, and nothing is quite as fulfilling as walking into a room and remembering faces that you’ve taught a year or so ago and being told how much of a difference you made in their lives.
What are the three travel essentials that you always carry with you?
Along with my computer, iPad and iPhone there are three essentials that I must have in my carry-on luggage. First, I’m going to count my journal and pen as one essential. Without the paper and pen my ideas can often get lost, and there is something about longhand that I truly, truly love.
Next, I always have my Mophie battery pack. I call it the “super slate”. Just about the size of an iPad mini, I am never without my Mophie which insures I can recharge all of my many devices if and when the need arises.
My last essential is truly an essential. I do not have a dog but I make sure to always have a hard rubber dog ball in my purse. When ever a tight muscle or cramp may arise I am able to take care of that sudden pain in an instant by rolling out or pressing my body up against this very simple dog toy. Yes, I sometimes run the risk of a stare or two if I’m on a plane, or in a waiting area, but nothing beats the release of a sore, tight, muscle.
What is the best advice you want to share with young women that are looking to explore and travel?
If I had some advice for young women who are interested in exploration and travel it would be to make a very clear plan. Know what you want to accomplish, where you would like to visit, and even what restaurants you would like to eat. After you’ve made all of your plans, be prepared to change them. Having many options is the key to filling your days and evenings with fun. But remember changing your mind is also an option. Choosing to rest and recuperate from a long day work should be fully acceptable and is highly recommended.
Also, If you happen to be traveling alone make sure that someone knows your planned itinerary at every turn. It is a dangerous world but that should not stop us ladies from exploring it. (If you decide to change plans don’t forget to inform those who love you the most.)
What does “traveling while female” mean to you?
I love this term”Traveling While Female” because it simply states there is nothing we can’t do; we can conquer it all. I have been fortunate enough to bestow many honors and awards to many women I have seen during my many travel days in airports. I’ll start with the Best Dressed Business Women preparing for that huge meeting as soon as she lands. Working Travel Moms on the phone checking in with hubby and kids confirming everyone is on schedule, and fed. And of course the superhero “I can travel with my three toddlers without TSA Pre-check” Women. I’ve singled these three instances out to because I’ve seen them on more than one occasion I’m in awe watching them. There is nothing that is impossible for us.
Do you think there are differences in travel preparation between yourself as a woman and male dancers in the company?
Of course I believe there are many differences between how men and women in the company travel and prepare to travel, but to be completely honest no one travels quite like I do. I often carry much more than I need, and I tend to feel I would be placed in the high-maintenance category of travelers. I can truly say, once I arrive in any hotel I have all that is required to make the experience perfect for me and that is most important; being comfortable where you are. I must bring some familiarity to each hotel room and this is how I do it.