The BLOG: Culture

Dancers access artistic freedom in Cirio Collective

(Courtesy photo by Igor Burlak)

(Courtesy photo by Igor Burlak)

Dancers are used to practicing in studios, but there was something particularly fitting when members of the Cirio Collective began to improvise in a church-turned-dance studio. For the Cirio Collective, a studio is like a sanctuary and artistic expression is sacred.

While a violin and viola hummed a rendition of Radiohead’s angsty “Idioteque,” the dancers, one by one, translated their responses into movements. They celebrated individuality but also collaboration, as the collective’s Artistic Director Jeffrey Cirio, 24, taught them the steps to a routine.

The troupe captured the session on video — nothing fancy, just GoPros and cameras — to offer a snapshot of its work and to introduce its new partnership with the two musicians, Josh Knowles and Anna Stromer.

“The video is very relaxed and impromptu,” Cirio Collective member and Boston Ballet First Soloist Isaac Akiba, 27, said. “We all created it, we are all putting in our own individual ideas … We wanted to see what we could make just by ourselves.”

With the objectives of choreography, creation and collaboration, the eight-person Cirio Collective was formed in 2015 by sibling dancers Jeffrey and Lia, 29. Jeffrey choreographed material that the group performed at the Vineyard Arts Project and the Cape Dance Festival last summer.

“I have to take care of everyone, but I also have to put them first,” Jeffrey said. “Lia and I both believe that if we put (the dancers) first, then things will potentially happen … It’s all about the group, that’s why we call it the collective.”

Both Cirio siblings were Principal Dancers with the Boston Ballet, but Jeffrey joined the American Ballet Theater in New York as a Soloist for the 2015 season. Despite the distance, they still find time to work together and prepare for performances once again this summer.

“Lia and I picked these people for a reason,” Jeffrey said. “One, because they’re our friends, and two, because we trust that they’re hardworking people. They want to work, they want to learn new things. They collaborate with different people. That was what we wanted to do with the collective so we chose accordingly.”

Because the dancers have known each other for a long time, the dancers said that it felt natural for the collective to form. According to Boston Ballet First Soloist Paul Craig, 27, the Cirio Collective is “a platform for each of us as artists to express ourselves.”

Jeffrey Cirio (Courtesy photo by Igor Burlak)

Jeffrey Cirio (Courtesy photo by Igor Burlak)

“It’s freedom of artistic expression, which I’m down with even if that means extracurricular work,” he said. “It’s totally worth it to be able to express yourselves with being vulnerable without being worried about judgment or your place in the company or where you might be in the future.”

As an amateur musician and music enthusiast, Craig especially relished the opportunity to share in a project with the musicians, Knowles and Stromer. After performing in the Boston Ballet’s 2014 performance of Alexander Ekman’s “Cacti,” Knowles, who is also a lyricist, wrote a poem that Craig recorded for the Cirio Collective to use in its piece “MiniM.” They enjoyed the partnership so much that the musicians are now joining the Cirio Collective more permanently.

Knowles is a recent Berklee College of Music graduate, and Stromer is currently finishing her Berklee education after taking off a year to work with the award-winning band 30 Seconds to Mars.

“Being able to collaborate with them on this and future projects is awesome,” Craig said. “It’s just another way to create the art of every perspective, not only visually, but audibly.”

Jeffrey said that the group hopes to include artists from more departments in the future, including two more dancers. When it comes time to grow their collective, they will look for creative ways to incorporate their work. Jeffrey also hopes to see the Cirio Collective perform at larger venues, and even host its own festival.

“We hope that this is creating more opportunities for artists that we can work with, not even just music, but maybe a lighting designer we could work with, or a painter,” Jeffrey said. “We strive to have collaboration as much as we can.”

Despite the hours they already spend in the studio with Boston Ballet and other companies, Akiba believes that this project is worth the commitment.

“Dance is how we live,” Akiba said. “It’s not just what we do on the side or for one-third of the day. You always bring it with you; when you go home, it’s there. So you want to continue developing in any way you can. You always have to say yes to opportunities because you never know where that opportunity will take you.”

The Cirio Collective will perform this summer at the Vineyard Arts Project and the Cape Dance Festival.

Mary Hierholzer

Mary Hierholzer

Mary Hierholzer is a freelance journalist and Gordon College graduate.