Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Interview with Richmond Ballet's Ariel Rose

© Liza Voll Photography/
Richmond Ballet's Ariel Rose has been around the world and back. At just 20 years old, he was a soloist guest artist at Ballet Municipal de Lima in Peru after training at ABT's JKO School and Ballet Academy East (where we trained together). His budding career in both ballet and choreography is enviable.

Read my interview below with Ariel about his experiences abroad and his new position at Richmond Ballet.

What has the start of your ballet career been like thus far since BAE and JKO? Where have you been dancing, and what have been some of the highlights?

In 2008 I went to Boston Ballet to be a trainee for two years. However, as a trainee, I was luckily chosen to perform with Boston Ballet's corps in a few ballets such as Kudelka's "Cinderella,” Nissinen’s "The Nutcracker", Balanchine's "Diamonds" and "Coppelia" and the Royal Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty." During this time, my dancing changed dramatically, not only from the rep I was dancing but also because the incredible artists I was seeing everyday in class. When I took company class, I would study and try things that I observed from their different techniques. I was constantly inspired to push myself further and take myself to a new level I didn't think I'd reach.

You spent the summer dancing abroad with Ballet Municipal de Lima, right? How did that opportunity come about?

I have always had family in Peru (everyone from my mother's side that is.) Every year, we would usually fly down to visit them for a week; however, we never knew of the dancing going on within the country. During one vacation in which I couldn't afford to not dance for a week due to Boston Ballet's schedule, I found The Ballet Municipal de Lima online and asked if I could come take class for a week. In the summer of 2010, I was invited to guest with the Ballet Municipal de Lima as a First Soloist in Peru during their production of Alicia Alonzo's “Coppelia.” After being a trainee for two years, this seemed like a giant step forward but I did not hesitate in answering yes. A week after rehearsals, I was told that I would be learning Franz (the leading male role) due to an injury of one of their own principal dancers. Although a little intimidated, I went in head first, throwing all of my self-doubt out the window (I couldn't imagine doing a principle role any other way). I ended up dancing 5 performances of Franz (1/3 of the shows) and was pretty well received by the Peruvian audiences. When I look back, the jump from student to such an experience is actually frightening, but I feel that at least on an emotional level, I was ready for it and it was an experience that I needed. No, that I craved.

What was your experience like abroad?

Dancing abroad is something that I didn't think I would do at such an early age. Although I do not think it is good for every at twenty years old, I feel that it really brought me into the professional world. I went to somewhere completely new where I knew no one and in which the language was not English, and just engaged myself in ballet without anything else on the side. It was very easy to just focus and direct all of my attention to the art I was working on at the time and also find out what it takes to perform a three act ballet on and off the stage. Along with opening new doors, traveling to dance somewhere new really changes ones perspective on things in the dance world one way or another and to be perfectly honest, I think this is one thing that is necessary for a dancer to survive for a long time healthily and inspired. Along with dancing new and exciting repertoire, traveling abroad lets one meet new people, learn new languages, customs and more importantly, actually realize that ballet is done differently around the world. Yes there are different styles but people actually see and appreciate ballet in different ways depending on where you go.

(More plus video after the jump...)

You're now at Richmond Ballet. What made you decide to go there?

In August 2010, I joined the Richmond Ballet in Richmond, Virginia. To be perfectly honest, it was not my first choice in terms of companies not because of what it was, but because of my desire to live closer to home and be in a bigger company. However, after working for about eight weeks now, I see that I made a great decision. A great choreographer, teacher and mentor once told me that we are only ever as good as the repertoire that we dance. The thing about Richmond Ballet is that they provide an environment for new works to be made each year. This year alone we will have five world premieres!

What are you dancing in this season? What are you most looking forward to?

So far, I have performed in Salvatore Aiello's "Clowns and Others" (an older work from the NCDT archives) and learned Ma Cong's new work "Eshter Valse.” Both of these contemporary works have been really great to work on and explore new movement but more importantly and specifically some one else's perspective and way of movement (which is why choreography is so special in the first place.) Additionally, we have been working on Balanchine "Valse Fantasie', which is set to Glinka's beautiful waltz. It is always fun to watch and appreciate Balanchine's work. As I watch the piece (or any of his works) over and over, I begin to see through the steps and see more of his choreographic technique and innovativeness. In February we will be performing Freddy Franklin's “Giselle.” Although I may not get the opportunity that I got in Lima, it will still be an experience to just learn the principle roles and understand them, so that maybe one day when chosen to do them, I will have a head start and already have the "schematics" to do them.

Where does your choreographic career stand right now? Are you still working on that?

I have been choreographing a lot! However, most of it has been in my head. Last year I was invited back to Ballet Academy East (where I received all my early training) to choreograph a piece for the school. For my choreography I have A LOT of future plans, some of which are so big I don't know how they will work looking at how the dance world is struggling in this economy. However, as I choreograph, I continually think about the lost love of ballet (as ballet in the 70's and 80's is heading towards being known as the golden age of ballet) and try to choreograph thinking about the audience. Often I have heard teachers and mentors tell artists to not care what everyone thinks and just do their art but I do not think that is possible, as our art is for the common people. In other words, we need to perform and create ballets not for other dancers, but for everyone else who is not in our world. However, I feel that directors are so concerned about feet and lines because for them as dancers it is what they would look to improve and be impressed by (in addition to impressing other dancers and companies). Ironically for a critic, this may merely end up as a side note, that someone had great feet or high extension. However, a ballet with expressive dancers and a piece choreographed to entertain and provoke some emotion within the audience may get a full page in the Times. I feel that this is a big problem in the dance world and as a choreographer, I am trying to create and think of ballets that will try to make people feel more connected to ballet and hopefully bring it further into the light from the shadow it has been gradually sliding toward.

What has been the biggest challenge of your career so far? Any advice for aspiring ballet dancers facing similar struggles?

The biggest challenge in my career has probably been my confidence. Because I wasn't naturally built for ballet, my early training was somewhat casually neglected (as not much as expected of me). In all honesty, I don't think any one really thought I was going to be where I am now because I didn't have physically what they felt made a professional dancer. However, I was still supported by some teachers and friends, but most of all, by my inspiration from some of the world's best male dancers. If you think about it, every great artist is somehow inspired by an artist that came before them. Where ballet is today, has occurred because of a long chain reaction of inspiration that has occurred over the last one hundred and fifty years! My best piece of advice for a dancer would be to find one or two dancers who truly inspire you. Observe them, study them, learn what they do best, ask yourself why they look the way they do. Often we don't feel the way we actually look, and studying a great professional dancer can help one realize this and fix things that a teacher may never tell you. In fact, you are your own teacher.

Watch part of Ariel's performance in Peru below!

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