Arja in Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Photo by Daniel Azoulay, Courtesy Miami City Ballet.
She may look delicate, with her long, feathery limbs and filigreed line, but Nathalia Arja’s dancing is powered by a startling speed and daring. The recently promoted soloist snaps through Miami City Ballet’s many Balanchine works with an audacity as joyful as it is thrilling, pushing the physical edges and emotional depths of everything she performs.
“One of Nathalia’s most striking qualities is her fearlessness. It was what I noticed right away when I saw her.”
—Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez
Company: Miami City Ballet
Hometown: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Training: Alice Arja School of Ballet (her mother’s school), Miami City Ballet School
Breakout moment: Arja had just joined MCB’s corps when Alexei Ratmansky chose her for the “war girl” solo in his Symphonic Dances, which the troupe premiered in early 2012. He saw Arja as the embodiment of a fragile-seeming but powerful, chaos-sowing figure, and Arja says his vision brought out a ferocity she didn’t know she possessed.
Bonus confidence booster: A rehearsal visit from Baryshnikov, who mentioned that Arja was his favorite dancer in Symphonic Dances.
In the beginning: When Arja arrived at MCB’s school at 15, she was so overwhelmed by the complexities of Balanchine style (and not speaking English) that she used to break down in tears. Now she’s at home in both languages. “I love that Balanchine has so much feeling—that every movement tells a story,” she says.
On the horizon: This season Arja is dancing the title role of Richard Alston’s Carmen. “Her kind of physical attack is another way of showing the sharpness of Carmen,” says Alston. “She’s fierce—it may be her ambition that’s fierce, and there’s nothing wrong with that—but she’s not a little sweetie.” She is also cast as the lead in Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and as one half of the “jump couple” in Symphony in Three Movements.
What she’s working on: Pushing past her technical accomplishment to find the distinctiveness of each movement. “I fight myself because I can do things easily, but it’s how you do them that’s going to make you different,” Arja says. “That’s how you become a leader onstage.”