BWW Interviews: Jeffrey and Lia Cirio from the Boston Ballet
The Boston Ballet will perform at The Koch Theater at Lincoln Center from June 25-29, 2014 for their first New York tour. This marks the final performances of the Company's 50th season, which launched at London's Coliseum Theatre in July, 2013. Nominated by The Critics' Circle National Dance Awards for "Outstanding Company", Boston Ballet is internationally recognized for a commitment to classical, neo-classical and contemporary choreography. The Company consists of 56 dancers representing a total of 19 nationalities and will present six dynamic performances accompanied by the Boston Ballet Orchestra. Boston Ballet's programs showcase a century of ground-breaking choreography and the impressive range of this world-class institution as well as two New York premieres - Alexander Ekman's Cacti and a new work by José Martinez. Jeffrey and Lia Cirio are brother and sister and also principle dancers with the company. We spoke to them about their experiences with The Boston Ballet, their training, and coming to New York for the first time. For tickets to the Boston Ballet at The Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, please visit http://www.davidhkochtheater.com/moreinfoBB.html
Broadwayworld Dance recently sat down to interview Jeffrey and Lia.
Where were you born?
Both: We lived in Springfield, PA, outside Philadelphia, when we were children.
When did you first become interested in dance?
Jeffrey: My sister was serious about ballet, so my parents decided to enroll her in the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB), which required us to move to Carlisle. Pennsylvania for her training. I had always been involved in sports and martial arts, but at CPYB I saw guys dancing for the first time and decided to take a class.
Lia: Ever since I can remember, all I wanted to do was dance. My mom loves to tell the story of when I was born. Because I was feet first and refused to flip, she had to have me as an emergency C-section baby. When I was finally born the doctor exclaimed, "I think you have a dancer on your hands!"
What about your early dance teachers-any particular influences?
Jeffrey: I've had many influences. Most people know about CPYB. Marcia Dale Weary and the others are infamous for drilling technique into bodies. Marcia taught me the importance of working hard, but it wasn't until I started taking privates with Laszlo Berdo that I felt a big change in my dancing. He taught me men's technique, but it was more than that. With Laszlo, I learned to work through the challenges, the ups and downs of dancing. Later, I had the opportunity to work with Rolando Sarabia and Magaly Suarez. Theirs was a Cuban influence that was important to my technique, but Rolando had an uncanny sense of musicality and taught me to hear music differently. Later in my career, Peter Stark had a large influence in helping me to see the "big picture" of ballet.
Lia: I have had some wonderful teachers. I started early with tap, jazz and ballet. My teacher told my parents that although I was good at all of them, I had a propensity towards ballet. My parents took me to a more advanced ballet school where my teacher, Lori Ardis, after a few years of studying with her told my parents that I should go somewhere where I would be able to study more seriously. It was at that point that we moved to Carlisle, PA, so that I could study at CPYB. All of the teachers there -- Marcia Dale Wearly, Leslie Hench, Darla Hoover, Theresa Crawford--had a big impact on me. But if it wasn't for my earlier teachers being willing to "let go," I would not have had that experience, nor would I be where I am today.
When did you first join a company-which one and tell me something about your experiences there.
Jeffrey: Mikko Nissinen offered me a Boston Ballet II contract when I was 15. Of course, it was wonderful working with the company and taking classes with them, but after a year, I felt that I really was not ready for company life. I wanted to train more, and it was at this point that I worked with Peter Stark for a year at Orlando Ballet. I also had the chance to work with Bruce Marks, a man I had long admired in the ballet world. I danced with the company, but, more importantly, I trained for and did a lot of competition. That experience with a coach made me a stronger dancer. After a year, I started auditioning. I had several offers, but I actually decided to return to Boston Ballet if Mikko would hire me once again, because the rep at Boston Ballet is really amazing.
Lia: When I was 16, I auditioned for Boston Ballet. Mikko hired me then for his second company, BB2, and I joined BB2 for the 2003-2004 season. Being so young in a company was hard and overwhelming at first, but one is forced to quickly learn the ways of company life. One must know whose spot not to stand in; if second cast one learns to know the piece as if in first cast; and one learns that you have to be able to step into any part at the drop of a hat. In addition to all that, I also remember that my first impression of Boston Ballet was how much of a family it was, and still is.
What were your impressions of the company when you first joined?
Jeffrey: I love Boston Ballet. The dancers here are able to switch from classical to neo-classical to contemporary all in one day. I love it because my days are interesting and never boring. I can be dancing Ekman's Cacti in one rehearsal and in the next rehearsal I am dancing Lander's Etudes or Balanchine's Diamonds. It's pretty awesome. The other thing about Boston Ballet is the family-like atmosphere. We are all pretty close and really cheer each other on, which you don't always find in a ballet company.
Any dancers in the company you particularly admired?
Jeffrey: The principal men at Boston have always been helpful to me. I was young and new at partnering for big roles. Yury Yanowsky, Nelson Madrigal and Lasha Khozashvili have been like brothers to me. They have never minded helping me or coaching me, and I consider it an honor to dance beside them.
Lia: When I first joined the company, Sarah Lamb had just been promoted to principal. I remember looking up to her a lot because she was young as well. I would watch her like a hawk, trying to learn as much as I could from her. Another huge influence for me both then and now was Larissa Ponomarenko. She was the definition of prima ballerina, and everything she would dance was perfection. I am lucky enough now to get to work and be coached by her every day. She is such an inspiration and has taught me so much about ballet and artistry, that ballet is more than just technique.
You both dance a wide range of roles. Tell me about your favorites and why?
Jeffrey: I love the wide range of roles we do. My favorites- - that's hard. I loved doing Basilio in Don Quixote and Solor in La Bayadere. All of the Balanchine ballets are fun, and I enjoy their musicality. But, I really love doing contemporary work, so it's been wonderful to work with Jorma Elo, our resident choreographer. Elo's Experience was amazing for me because I danced the lead role with Larissa Ponomarenko - that was a definite career highlight. I really admire Kylian and Forsythe. This year we did Ekman's Cacti, which was probably one of the highlights for me also.
Lia: We are so lucky at Boston Ballet to get to perform such a varied repertoire and, because of that, it seems impossible to choose favorites. But if I had to choose a few they would be:
Nikiya from La Bayadere. I connect with her so much, and I love all the acting her role entails. It was also the first full length ballet I performed as a principal, so it is very special to me.
Balanchine's Diamonds. Dancing this principal role recently was such an honor, and it was one of the best moments on stage for me. This ballet makes you feel so sparkly and glamorous; it's something special.
Jorma Elo's Plan to B. It is one of his most iconic ballets, and I just enjoy dancing it so much and getting to move in a different and quirky way.
What do you think are the unique qualities you bring to dance?
Jeffrey: I am not sure I can answer that.
Lia: I would say that I try to bring something different to each role I dance. I try to find places I can balance longer or just feel the music in a different way than the night before. My friends and I like to call it "living." I live to live on stage!
Do you also teach?
Jeffrey: Yes, I do teach every summer. I go back and teach for my Peter Stark, my coach at Patel Conservatory. I also teach in the summer program at Boston Ballet when I have a chance. I enjoy coaching and would like to explore that opportunity more.
Lia: I do teach. Recently, in the past few years, I started teaching every summer when the company is on layoff. At first, I found it difficult to get into the teacher mode, giving corrections, making up combinations, and even dealing with some kids with attitudes! I believe now I have the hang of it, but I also have found that I like coaching more than teaching.
What about choreographing?
Jeffrey: Yes, I have had the chance to choreograph. I have choreographed numerous competition solos, pieces for Ballet Academy East in New York, for Boston Ballet's annual ball and BBII, and this year a piece for our Boston Ballet. Next year I will be choreographing a world premiere for the Opera House stage. I am grateful that Mikko has provided me with the opportunity to explore this side of dance.
Lia: I do not choreograph. But my brother choreographs, and I have been in a lot of his works. Sometimes, if he is having trouble, he will ask me to go into the studio and work with him. I like to say I'm his muse. That's quite an honor.
Photograph: E. Galan