Nathalia Arja and Ballet’s Athleticism

Recently (July 2016) I conducted an interview with ballerina, Nathalia Arja, promoted in May to principal soloist with Miami City Ballet. During the interview I posed the question of the effects of athleticism on the dance. Arja’s reply forms an incisive response to critics like Jennifer Homans (Apollo’s Angels, epilogue) who argue that the increasing athleticism of ballet is a sure sign of the art form’s decline. As Arja states during the interview:

Look at Balanchine ballet – it’s accessible to audiences because it is athletic. Balanchine broke the image of the dancer in classical ballet by putting everyone in leotards. He made ballet athletic and contemporary choreographers – Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Justin Peck – carry on this tradition. The recent shift to seeing dancers as athletes is an adjustment that has been coming for some time now because Balanchine, years ago, started us down this path.

Here Arja problematizes the notion of athleticism and situates the phenomenon as the consequences following from a set of decisions initiated over half a century ago by one of the most important artistic representatives of ballet – Balanchine. Click here for the full interview.

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