On the Side: Jeffrey Cirio

Hip hop helped the Boston Ballet principal find himself as a dancer.
Published in the December 2012/January 2013 issue.

Photo by JRDN Photo

“You don’t know what you’re capable of as a dancer until you explore different styles.”Jeffrey Cirio

 

Boston Ballet principal Jeffrey Cirio got hooked on hip hop early. “I went to a Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet summer program when I was 11, and I thought the hip-hop classes were the coolest thing ever,” he says. “The teacher started working with me on the side, helping me with whatever I wanted to do. I was crazy about it.”


Today, Cirio stops at Steps on Broadway to take a hip-hop class whenever he’s in New York. But his most frequent teacher is actually his good friend James Whiteside, a former BB principal (and current American Ballet Theatre soloist) who’s also a hip-hop fiend. “James likes to get me and a few of the other Boston Ballet guys together and give us a sort of jazz fusion hip-hop class,” Cirio says. “We rock out.”


Thanks to his hip-hop expertise, Cirio has no problem navigating the quirky upper body isolations in BB resident choreographer Jorma Elo’s works. But Cirio also credits his early exposure to hip hop as a mind-opening experience that made him start thinking about who he was as a dancer. “I often help young kids prepare for competitions like Youth America Grand Prix, and I’m always telling them to try out different dance classes,” he says. “Ballet is very square and strict. Something like hip hop will give you the freedom to figure out what your body can do, and what your unique style is.”