On the Rise: Nathalia Arja

 

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

Age: 22

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.”

Latest Posts


Ballet BC dancers Tara Williamson, left, and Darren Devaney in RITE by Emily Molnar. Photo by Chris Randle, Courtesy Ballet BC

Why Do Mixed-Rep Companies Still Rely on Ballet for Company Class?

In a single performance by a mixed-rep company, you might see its shape-shifting dancers performing barefoot, in sneakers and in heels. While such a group may have "ballet" in its name and even a rack of tutus in storage, its current relationship to the art form can be tenuous at best. That disconnect grows wider every year as contemporary choreographers look beyond ballet—if not beyond white Western forms entirely—in search of new inspiration and foundational techniques.

Yet dancers at almost all of the world's leading mixed-rep ensembles take ballet classes before rehearsals and shows. Most companies rarely depart from ballet more than twice a week and some never offer alternative classes.

"The question, 'Why do you take ballet class to prepare you for repertory which is not strictly classical?' has been in the air since Diaghilev's time," says Peter Lewton-Brain, Monaco-based president of the International Association for Dance Medicine & Science. "What you're doing onstage is often not what you're doing in class."

GO DEEPER SHOW LESS