Pacific Northwest Ballet Soloist Christopher D’Ariano is Staying Connected to His Roots

March 15, 2023
shirtless male dancer sitting on cement wall wearing black pants and nike shoes
D’Ariano’s latest work is set to premiere this month for the Joffrey Academy of Dance’s Winning Works program, with music by composers (and D’Ariano’s friends) Thomas Nickell and Fiona Stocks-Lyons.

Several months before Christopher D’Ariano’s promotion to soloist with Pacific Northwest Ballet last fall, the native New Yorker had a full-circle moment performing on tour at the theater that ignited his love for ballet (and choreography) in the first place—Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. “It’s rare that my family and friends get to see me perform live,” says D’Ariano, who moved to Seattle in 2016 to train in the PNB School Professional Division and joined PNB as an apprentice the next year. That he was cast in Ulysses Dove’s Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven made D’Ariano’s hometown return all the more special. “I got to perform a male pas de deux, something I rarely saw growing up watching New York City Ballet. Dancing this for my loved ones and myself was one of the most humbling experiences in my life,” shares D’Ariano, who also traces his formal introduction to choreography back to his New York City days. “I felt the younger me that used to watch from the fourth tier was so proud of the man he saw that night.”

Learning Tools:
“Being on both sides of the room as choreographer and dancer benefits me as an artist. For me, there is not one without the other—the duality only makes me wiser.”

His Current Creative Process:
“I take in as much information about a topic as possible, from images to music and films or phrases, so that when I am pressed to work quickly in the studio, I have a foundation for my ideas. I like to be clear with dancers—showing them compilations of images I’m inspired by, drawings I’ve made of ideas or formations—and asking them questions, so we can begin to create one collective mind together.”

Remembering His Roots:
“My community reminds me that there is always a story to tell. Being a queer Asian male, I realize my roots; my family history, the city I grew up in and the people that surrounded me have all built me. I hope I keep fine-tuning all of my mediums of expression so that, over time, I can better articulate what my unique perspective is and share my stories—and those of
my people—with a nuanced accuracy.”

Goal Accomplished:
“I lived out a dream role this past year dancing in Duo Concertant. That was my number one dream ballet since I was a student.”

Making (Marker) Moves:
“I have memories of creating dances in my room at around eight or nine, either on myself or with mini Magic Markers (which I still do). I would stand them up, color coordinate them, and sing my own songs while changing their formations.”

Stepping into the theatre as a student in NYCB’s The Sleeping Beauty:
“I was awestruck by the theatrics and stage production, by the ballerinas and by how cinematic it all felt. I took backstage photos on my phone, studied and edited them for days, posted them online. I was left with a lasting impression that I was a part of something bigger than myself.”

An NYC-Inspired ritual:
“Before a show, I will almost always eat a plain bagel and drink a Gatorade. Maybe it’s just my New Yorker instinct, but there is something so comforting in eating a bagel.”

Finding Other Creative Avenues:

“I first got a computer when I was about 11 and just played on iMovie for hours. I would take my dad’s old camera and bring it to my dance studio or a friend’s house and just film anything. From then on, I would periodically pick up a camera and take photos. Fast forward to March 2020, and I suddenly had an abundance of time to reignite my passions outside of being a dancer. I love to draw, I would play with layering on After Effects, make t-shirts, and learned how to photoshop.”