In the Spotlight: What Nathalia Arja Would Be Doing If She Weren't A Dancer
When Miami City Ballet's fiery principal soloist Nathalia Arja is onstage, it's impossible to look away. So it comes as little surprise that if Arja weren't a dancer, she'd probably want to be a comedian or an anchorwoman—both careers that demand the effortless charisma that Arja exudes onstage and off.
Her buoyant jump, playful attack and spirited stage presence have made her one of MCB's fastest-rising up-and-comers. But it hasn't gone to her head–Arja still revels in being "the clown of the group," and taking the challenges of the ballet world a day at a time.
We caught up with Arja for the first iteration of our new online series, "In the Spotlight."
Name: My full name is actually Nathalia Khrisnna Arja Lobato, but I'm known as Nathalia Arja.
Company: Miami City Ballet
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
PC Daniel Azoulay
What do you think is the most common misconception about dancers?
That dancers don't eat. That doesn't take into account how many calories we burn in class and in rehearsals. I eat pretty much anything!
What other career would you like to try?
I've always wanted to be an actress—comedy in particular is my thing. My friends could tell you more about that—I definitely like being the clown of the group! I also wanted to be a TV anchorwoman. I used to have my mother bring out her camera and record me as I presented the news.
What was the last dance performance you saw?
I was in Sevilla, Spain, and I saw this amazing flamenco performance, which was actually my first time seeing professional flamenco. I was just amazed by their footwork and how passionate those dancers are. And of course, their costumes are beautiful.
What's the most-played song on your phone?
Lately I've been listening a lot to Bruno Mars' latest album. I really like his songs and I love the way he moves. I'm always dancing to any of his songs—it puts me in such a great mood!
Do you have a pre-performance ritual?
I like to listen to gospel songs in my dressing room as I'm getting ready for my shows, and I will never get out there without praying. I dedicate every performance to God.
What's your favorite book?
One of my favorites is The Shack. I'm always recommending it to people.
Arja in Symphonic Dances. PC Alexander Iziliaev
Where can you be found two hours after a performance ends?
You can find me either eating at a restaurant or at home.
Where did you last vacation?
My last vacation was throughout Europe—I did Denmark, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Ireland.
What app do you spend the most time on?
I'm definitely on Instagram a lot checking out what my friends and family are up to, especially everyone in Brazil. I also like to go on Snapchat, but just to send silly videos to my friends to make them laugh.
Who is the person you most want to dance with—living or dead?
When I first heard of Natalia Osipova and saw her videos, I was amazed by her powerful dancing and incredible jumps. Jumping is one of my favorite things to do, so I remember saying to myself that I wanted to do a "Duet of The Natalias" and see what it is like to fly with Osipova!
What's the first item on your bucket list?
Well, because I'm a foodie, my goal is to keep traveling around the world, trying all sorts of food and learning different cultures.
What's your go-to cross-training routine?
I love Pilates. It has brought me so much strength and body knowledge.
What's the worst advice you've ever received?
I've been told, "be the best" but I completely disagree with that. I believe that the best advice you could give to a dancer is "be YOUR best and every day try to be a little better than yesterday." That's my mind set—I think that's a healthy way of thinking for a healthy career!
If you could relive one performance, what would it be?
I would definitely go back to the company's last New York tour when I did the Russian Girl in Serenade and the War Girl in Alexei Ratmansky's Symphonic Dances. It was surreal for me, to be dancing those two incredible roles on that stage. I will always treasure that night!
Alicia has died. I walked around my apartment feeling her spirit, but knowing something had changed utterly.
My father, the late conductor Benjamin Steinberg, was the first music director of the Ballet de Cuba, as it was called then. I grew up in Vedado on la Calle 1ra y doce in a building called Vista al Mar. My family lived there from 1959 to 1963. My days were filled with watching Alicia teach class, rehearse and dance. She was everything: hilarious, serious, dramatic, passionate and elegiac. You lost yourself and found yourself when you loved her.
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.
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In 2017, as a result of a growing list of letters from audience members, to New York City Ballet's ballet master in chief Peter Martins reached out to us asking for assistance on how to modify the elements of Chinese caricature in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker. Following that conversation, we founded the Final Bow for Yellowface pledge that states, "I love ballet as an art form, and acknowledge that to achieve a diversity amongst our artists, audiences, donors, students, volunteers, and staff, I am committed to eliminating outdated and offensive stereotypes of Asians (Yellowface) on our stages."
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"I got angry when I saw that email, wrote my angry response, deleted it, and then went back and explained to him that that's exactly why I should be making those works," says Peugh.
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