How do you keep one foot in Mobile and the other in New York City when those feet are typically sailing across the Big Apple’s most celebrated stages? Blaine Hoven has a method.
“I usually see it as my time away from being fast-paced. I use the flight down to readjust. Flying through the Atlanta airport, people are already slower-paced there, so it helps,” Hoven said.
A soloist with the American Ballet Theatre, Hoven will lead colleagues through the same adjustment before taking the Mobile Civic Center Theater stage for Mobile Ballet’s “Blaine Hoven — Full Circle.” Hoven served as artistic director for the Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m. performance, gathering players and organizing pieces for the hometown review featuring internationally lauded dancers.
“I wanted people from every rank in the company instead of just stars, because we have very talented people in each rank. Also, I wanted the group as a whole to mesh so I kind of picked people who get along together and would have a good time as a group doing this,” Hoven said.
The bill includes portions from “Toccare,” “Don Quixote,” “Swan Lake” and Balanchine’s “Rubies” along with contemporary works. Hoven’s six ABT comrades include Stella Abrera, Isabella Boylston, Jose Sebastian, Christine Shevchenko, Cassandra Trenary and James Whiteside.
The process was egalitarian. The dancers called the shots.
“I asked them what some of their favorite things to do were. If they hadn’t done something before, what they would want to do. So it was kind of like a decision between all of us,” Hoven said.
The Mobile native first encountered the Manhattan bustle when he spent five summer stints with ABT after growing up in Mobile Ballet. That was back in the late 1990s.
“I got a taste of it back then for six weeks of those summers. It’s really nice not having to drive a car, being able to walk everywhere and the faster pace and there’s just a buzz about it. It wakes you up every day. The energy is so great here,” Hoven said.
Meteorological energy is another story. Thanks to his Gulf Coast background, the dancer chuckles at New Yorkers’ complaints about summer heat.
“The humidity in New York is probably about half of what we have in Alabama. You can sweat here right when you walk out of the house but definitely not as much as Alabama,” Hoven said.
In NYC since 2003, he’s not ready to call it quits. Homesickness isn’t an issue since he makes it back to the Azalea City “in summer for a while and all the major holidays.”
“My mother is deceased but my father and the rest of my family still lives in Mobile,” Hoven added.
The biggest question would be age. A highly athletic art form, ballet is noted for its physical toll. Martha Graham noted, “A dancer’s body cannot lie,” something to which Mikhail Baryshnikov can attest after a lifetime of surgeries, particularly on his right knee.
“I’m hoping I make it until I’m, like, 40, that’s my goal. Used to be the average age was, like, 35 when people retire, but now people take better care of their bodies and people are lasting a lot longer,” Hoven said.
Nearing his noted gateway to middle age, Hoven said he had one surgery five years ago, repairs to an ankle that became a problem with repeated sprains. He seems satisfied with the results.
Hoven’s daily routine orbits the gym and studio. He’s eased back on resistance training for now — “maybe some bands” — yet photos show a decidedly fit physique the average 27-year-old would kill to possess.
Modern fitness medicine also extends to his diet. Hoven employs a nutritionist.
He’s also carried another part of his roots to Manhattan: a passion for Alabama football. It’s not as out of place as one might assume.
“There’s a lot of [Alabama fans] up here. It’s crazy. They even have their own bar where they go to watch games,” Hoven laughed.
It’s not just sense of place but family tradition as well. He said his father was so attuned to the Tide he kept an on-campus condo across from Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Asked about his plans for immediately following the Mobile performance, there was no surprise. It involves a long ride through the country with family.
“I’m driving with my father up to Tuscaloosa for the Alabama-LSU game,” Hoven chuckled.
(Photo | Courtesy Mobile Ballet) Mobile native Blaine Hoven (standing in window) will take the stage for Mobile Ballet’s “Blaine Hoven — Full Circle” performance Nov. 2.