Boston Ballet brings their triple bill to the National Arts Centre November 7th through 9th. The bill includes Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, Paulo Arrais’ ELA, Rhapsody in Blue, and William Forsythe’s Blake Works I. I spoke with Paulo Arrais, principal dancer and choreographer of ELA, Rhapsody in Blue, ahead of Boston Ballet’s program.
Arrais started dancing at a young age and had many spectacular opportunities. Most notably, he was selected from a competition in Brazil, where he was born, to travel and dance. He said, “it was a little bit hard to move away at 15 and throw myself into the world, I would say, but an incredible opportunity.” He has studied at the Royal Ballet School in London, and has worked with choreographers like William Forsythe, and Alonzo King of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet.
The reason I came to Boston Ballet is because the repertoire is very versatile. To strive for excellence in both [classical and contemporary] is really unique. I think every dancer nowadays should be ready to dance barefoot and in pointe shoes.—Paulo Arrais, Principal Dancer
Boston Ballet is a company that does it all. According to Arrais, the reason he “came to Boston Ballet is because the repertoire is very versatile. To strive for excellence in both [classical and contemporary] is really unique. I think every dancer nowadays should be ready to dance barefoot and in pointe shoes.”
We spoke in detail about his training and work with Forsythe, one of my personal favourite choreographers. Forsythe brings such a complexity and newness to his work that it’s very hard not to enjoy it. Arrais mentioned “I remember watching the Forsythe program here in Boston and as I was watching the company I thought about the way Bill coached the dancers and I was like ‘oh my God.’” He said that Forsythe’s work “has that French classicism—he is an incredible choreographer and coach.”
Boston Ballet will be performing Forsythe’s Blake Works I, choreographed to James Blake’s 2016 album “The Colour in Anything.” Arrais said, “Blake Works is such an updated version of classical ballet. We broke records on ticket sales because Bill [Forsythe] is extremely innovative. We need arts—it’s a fact that we broke records with Bill’s work. With pop music on stage, it brings a new crowd.”
Arrais also worked with the Alonzo King LINES Ballet: “I think going to LINES for a year, was exceptional and really crucial to my career and search for my voice as an artist. When you were a student you were really working on your technique, and working with Alonzo was beyond that.” When he joined Boston Ballet, as a corps de ballet member and after only seasons, became a Principal Dancer, he said, “I really fell in love with the coaching part of being in front of the room. In the same way Alonzo pushed me to find my essence, I learned that from my past.”
ELA, Rhapsody in Blue, is all about amplifying women’s voices and experience. Arrais has provided a space for women’s voices to be heard and experiences to be seen. He told me “my goal as a choreographer is to try my best to take that to a traditional classically trained dancers is a different way of working but I think thats where the magic lays in naturality. He said, “I created a smaller piece for the Boston Ballet At Home series 3 years ago, which is now called choreograpHER—to push the young ladies in the company to make ballet. As we know, leadership is very dominated by males. BBathome became a safe space for women to make work.” Of his own piece, Arrais explained, “Mikko [Nissinen, Artistic Director of Boston Ballet], he was the one that picked the score. At the time with the MeToo movement, I was extremely inspired by all the strong women coming forward. It’s very hard to do. I also started to read a lot of psycho-analysis books—I first read Freud and was like “oh God, he’s so misogynistic.’”
He had a lot of inspiration in creating this piece: “I had really incredible experience with women in my life. I grew up around women and I wanted to pay tribute to the feminine. What I wanted to show in the piece is that the journey women have been through—the struggles, it hasn’t been easy. I try to go through a single journey of a lady in white. I really tried to go through that journey with a hopeful end with the MeToo movement.” He also recognized some of the barriers in creating this piece. He said, “I’m still not a woman, and to create about the experience was truly a collaboration with the ballerinas. I really had that LINES mentality-I gave them the freedom to bring their true selves to the piece.”
I think if we really look back in history to understand the present, dance started with the people; from the people and for the people and it should remain there! Art has always been present in our culture and we should really preserve that. —Paulo Arrais
Arrais’ advice for new spectators of dance has to do with the history of dance. “I think if we really look back in history to understand the present, dance started with the people; from the people and for the people and it should remain there! Art has always been present in our culture and we should really preserve that, especially through the technological era—it really keeps us grounded,” he said. He also explained that “dance is just there and it’s even more important—it’s a living art form and it’s something bigger than ourselves. If you see a human on stage going through something, even if the piece is very abstract, human beings are living things.” Come see Boston Ballet’s beautiful triple bill!
Boston Ballet performs their triple bill at the National Arts Centre November 7th-9th at 8pm on the Southam Hall Stage. The performance runs approximately 2 hours including intermissions. Tickets are available online and range from $31-$127. Half-price student tickets and $15 Live Rush are available for this performance.