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By Ashley Rivers
The Boston Ballet dancer brings emotion as well as athleticism to his roles.
In the world premiere of the angular, abstract Resonance by Jose Martinez at Boston Ballet, you wouldn’t have known that Roddy Doble has spent most of his career in classic story ballets. His athletic build and the explosive quality of his jumps stood out, making the conceptual contemporary movement look like second nature. But nevertheless, he seemed to find a story. Doble has been called “expressive” many times in his career. “It’s one thing to conquer a technical feat, but when you feel like you said something, there’s nothing like that walk home,” he says.
After five years in the corps at American Ballet Theatre, last fall the 25-year-old joined the corps at Boston Ballet. Already, he has earned a promotion to second soloist. And the opportunities keep coming. This spring, he will learn principal roles in Études and Jewels. “I am optimistic,” says Boston Ballet artistic director Mikko Nissinen. “He’s very talented. He has started well, his attitude is great and he’s working very hard. When those align, good things happen.”
Growing up in Southbury, Connecticut, Doble dove into sports at an early age. At 5, the boys in his karate school performed as soldiers in a local production of The Nutcracker, but he felt that ballet was “for girls.” The next year, however, when his best friend started taking ballet, he announced to his musician parents that he wanted to give it a shot. Being a male ballet dancer in public schools was tough. He told his friends he was dancing to help his sports, but found it satisfied him in a way that soccer and baseball could not. “Sports didn’t have what I was really looking for, which was an outlet for that need to emote and to express myself.”
As the only boy in his New Milford studio, he thrived on videos of Mikhail Baryshnikov, Carlos Acosta, José Manuel Carreño and others. The school also had male dancers come in to coach from time to time, which led Doble to start thinking about a professional career. Early on, he felt a connection with ABT—most of the stars he admired danced there. At 16, he received a full scholarship to the company’s summer program. Classes at ABT’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School followed, then a stint at the ABT Studio Company and finally an ABT corps contract.
Soon Doble became close with many of the dancers he had idolized growing up. He even performed principal roles, like Prince Gremin in Onegin with Polina Semionova, and Lanquedem in Le Corsaire. Artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky made an eye-catching role on him in The Nutcracker as the bare-chested object of feminine attention in the Arabian variation. “It was not a dance challenge, but it lent itself to some entertaining character exploration,” says Doble.
When he wasn’t in featured roles, he threw his extra energy into the gym, studying krav maga (an Israeli form of self-defense). As the years went by, though, he started thinking more about his future. Since ABT often brings in guest artists for principal roles, he recognized how stiff the competition was for an in-house promotion. He talked with artistic director Kevin McKenzie, who was supportive of Doble’s decision to move.
He considered companies abroad, but Boston held a special appeal. It was a smaller company than ABT, and it was close to home. Once he started, Doble found himself enjoying the challenge of contemporary work (“I hadn’t realized how much I missed it”) and the city’s small-town feel (“I love New York, but Boston is more my speed”). And with so many opportunities in the company, he feels he has time to explore his artistry and refine his technique.
For now, Doble is focused on proving what he can do. “I’m gonna be very busy, and very sore,” he says. “But that’s why I’m here.”
Doble in the Boston Ballet studios. Photo by Ernesto Galan, Courtesy Boston Ballet