Dancer Christopher D’Ariano talks about his career and PNB’s “The Seasons’ Canon” | Popgen Tech
By Kai Curry
THE NORTHWEST ASIA WEEK
“I started dancing hip hop and gymnastics in a studio a block away from my family’s Chinese restaurant in the Bronx, New York,” Christopher D’Ariano, a dancer with the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), told the Weekly. “I love creating dance and film, along with everything else to do with design. With each process of being both a creator and someone who is created on, I am finding a clearer perspective on what my voice is as an artist.” A dancer and choreographer, D’Ariano was promoted to soloist during PNB’s most recent production, “The Seasons’ Canon.”
According to the biography on the PNB website, D’Ariano played leading roles in George Balanchine’s “The Nutcracker”; “A Thousand Pieces” by Alejandro Cerrudo; “Wartime Elegy” by Alexei Ratmansky and “Carmina Burana” by Kent Stowell, both recently performed at PNB; and Twyla Tharp’s “Brief Fling”—to name a few in a long list. He choreographed for PNB and their school and appeared as a guest at the Fire Island Dance Festival, which he described as one of the most impactful moments of his career so far.
“I don’t think my career had a real direction before that time. Performing for a predominantly queer audience and raising money for a cause like the AIDS epidemic gave me focus on what really matters to me in this life: community. I started to reflect on who I was… My lineage is much deeper than I could process at the time and I was constantly in a place where I was still unpacking what it meant to be a queer Asian artist in America.”
D’Ariano is of Chinese and Italian descent. His work alludes to people in his life, such as “my Goong Goong and memories of dreams I had as a child in his restaurant,” and to others who came before. “I want to honor those who paved the way [and] be someone who can continue on that path for people like me.”
When asked how it is as a dancer of color, D’Ariano was realistic and positive. He acknowledged “there are social and racial hierarchies” in the professional dance industry, and “unfair advantages.” However, he also believes that “there is a community out there for every person.” In D’Ariano’s view, it is possible to “focus too much on the trauma, because we are all trying to heal it,” which is understandable and necessary, but “we have to keep the dialogue about relatability and familiarity alive. .. We must use each other to elevate, relate, and create proactive conversations to change what culture is for us and for our future generations.”
D’Ariano didn’t really focus on ballet until fourth grade. Before that, he competed in hip hop, jazz, tap, and lyrical dance. Attending Ballet Tech in Manhattan at a young age exposed him to “the theatrics of ballet and I soon became fascinated by the many facets of this art form.” Eventually, D’Ariano’s path led him to PNB, which he compliments for the diversity of works that have been shown.
“It is rare for an American ballet company to perform such a range of extreme ballet and contemporary works. Peter Boal has created an environment that allows innovation to succeed and constantly pushes us dancers to continue exploring new aspects of our own artistic identity.”
It is true that with PNB, you have both classical and modern dance in one place and in one company, while in many big cities, the two are separate. PNB’s most recent production, “The Seasons’ Canon,” which ran between November 4 and 21, is an example. Comprised of three pieces, “The Seasons’ Canon” began with “Catching Feelings”, based on “Works for Strings” by JS Bach, and choreographed by Dwight Rhoden; then “Duo Concertant,” with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by George Balanchine; and finally “The Seasons’ Canon,” Antonio Vivaldi’s famous “The Four Seasons” recomposed by Max Richter and choreographed by Crystal Pite.
In “Catching Feelings,” Bach’s music was classically familiar while the dancers’ movements were fluid and effervescent. The piece elaborated on the cycle of romance, from flirtation to intimacy and serious commitment and potential conflict. The costumes are always fun at PNB and in “Catching Feelings”, the “hot pants” and cut-off shirts allowed a sexy look, yes, but also a look at the complex body movements of each dancer.
“Each ballet in this program showcases a different voice,” D’Ariano explained. “There is definitely something for everyone in this show.” D’Ariano himself has a bad rap for “Duo Concertant,” which he learned at the School of American Ballet. In November, D’Ariano performed a duet with his girlfriend, Clara Ruf Maldonado, whom he has known “since our teenage years in New York.” The piece began with D’Ariano and Maldonado standing on stage next to the musicians before developing into a romantic duet set to Stravinsky’s modernist music.
“It was incredibly full circle for us to not only dance this together on stage, but also to be coached by Kay several years after we graduated under her direction,” said D’Ariano, who enjoyed working with the artistic director. of PNB, Peter Boal, on the piece. “He allowed both of us to grow within the process and he wanted to see our own voices emerge… It was a big dream of mine that came true and a moment I will never forget with Clara on that stage.”
Speaking about the third part of the program, D’Ariano commented, “To do a work like ‘The Seasons’ Canon’ is so impactful as a company because we can feel how quickly and deeply it affects the audiences,” and certainly, the dancers’ undulating movements on a dark background shot with light that separated and joined together just as they did—like a cellular organism—created an intense visceral experience.
D’Ariano, who accepted his promotion to soloist in a beautiful yellow Chinese tunic, used to say to any aspiring dancer, “If you feel something when you move your body, then you should explore more of this. There are no boundaries to what you can learn if you have the passion and curiosity to explore it.” And he would say to everyone, including people of color, “We need to let conversations create action and be brave enough to let our own backgrounds, stories and personal experiences shine… Seattle is such a rich city to discover local artists, enjoy nature. , and connecting with my own introverted self… I feel lucky to be here at this stage of my growth.”
Kai can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.