Getting Over the Hump with Jeffrey Cirio as He Preps Two Landmark Seasons

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Jeffrey Cirio surprised the ballet world last year when he left a principal position with Boston Ballet to take a soloist position with American Ballet Theatre. Eschewing the comfortable for the challenging, he also launched Cirio Collective, a collaborative dance project of which he is the artistic director and main choreographer, in the midst of his job switch. Featuring eight dancers, hailing from Boston Ballet, the Cirio Collective debuted at the Vineyard Arts Project and Cape Dance Festival with world premieres and new collaborations. This Wednesday, Cirio gives us a rundown of what mid-week looks like when you are planning for both your first Met season, ABT’s daunting spring/summer performing extravaganza at the Metropolitan Opera House, and a second summer of Cirio Collective.

Photo credit: Igor Burlak

Cirio Collective. Photo credit: Igor Burlak

{ Dd } Editor, Candice Thompson: The last time we talked (for Dance Magazine) about Cirio Collective, you were anticipating your inaugural season. It seems to me quite a lot has happened in your dancing career since then…

Jeff Cirio: Yes!  I performed Theme and Variations for my last couple of shows in Boston and it was a great run and nice to finish on such a high note. The transition to ABT was hard at first, as it is for any person coming into a new company. I had to find my new people and get used to the way a new place works. But, the dancers have been so welcoming and comforting, and that helped eventually. My casting was slow at the beginning of the season, but now with Met season on the horizon, it has picked up and my casting is good. I will be in La Fille mal gardee, Le Corsaire, and a bunch of Ratmansky, so many things I am looking forward to dancing.

CT: Met season is notorious for being a grueling six weeks of shows. How will you manage planning for the Collective’s 2016 season with your first Met season?

JC: I have heard I will have no life, absolutely no life. And I am both looking forward to it and also not. With the experience of doing Cirio collective last year, and knowing that both of the places we were presented wanted us back automatically, the planning has gone smoothly so far. My sister Lia, who is a principal with Boston Ballet, does a lot of pr. I do some admin on my breaks, but a lot of the work happens at night when I get home. I finish at ABT at 7p, get home, make dinner, and do emails and calls until I go to bed. I will save choreographing for the summer, though I will work through ideas going into it.

CT: Will the dancers and program be similar to the Collective’s roster last summer?

JC: We are hoping to do a new work, with Paulo Arrais choreographing for Lia and Paul Craig. We also have a new collaboration in the works, a music video for a band we know. That video will be part of the program. We are lucky to have most of the same dancers from Boston, it is really a matter of managing everyone’s schedule. No one from ABT is slated as of yet (though something could be in the works) but hopefully the following year, 2017, will be a turning point for us, adding more dancers, possibly another choreographer, and more performance venues.

CT: Speaking of growing the Collective, where does your funding come from?

JC: Last year we had two major donors fund us. I already had a relationship with them for seven plus years so it was a logical ask. While that was the major part of our funding, there were also so many small donations, friends and family, that added up to a lot of help. We are hoping to keep that going and keep them happy.

CT: How do you do stay connected with them and keep them excited about your project?

JC: We have been sending out emails and using social media to give updates about what the summer of 2016 looks like. With my major donors, nothing replaces meeting in person. I have a break from ABT coming up the second week of March and I have a donor dinner then. But again, Lia and I try to keep a handle on it by managing it throughout the day whenever there is a free moment, and returning to it at night.

CT: Do you feel the experience of building this group has changed your dancing?

JC: Last summer was freeing experience, to dance and not worry about opinions and to know that what we created was by and for us. I think we all grew as friends and artists.

CT: It seems like you are describing the benefits of a lateral work structure versus the typical hierarchical structure of classical ballet…

JC: Yes, the work we did was a process for everyone, not just for me. We are all artists and we are all trying to do our best. We want to push each other to the next level, contribute to the dance world in a small way.

It has also pushed me to be more efficient. Going into last summer, I thought two weeks was not enough time to create a piece. But we did it. So when I recently choreographed for Joffrey Ballet Studio Company and I only had 1.5 weeks to create 12 minutes, I had confidence going in because I knew I could do it.

CT: What gets you over the hump these busy days?

JC: I often just need a second when I get home to gather my thoughts and relax, and if I do nothing for a moment, then I can easily go back to my admin work in the evening. When I am so in the moment and trying to get everything done, I will take time to make myself a manhattan, or pour a glass of beer or wine, depending on my mood and workload.

CT: Yes, some drinks can help you gather your thoughts sooner rather than later!

JC: I couldn’t agree more.


Click here to connect with the Cirio Collective.

Click here to donate to their 2016 season, which includes encores in Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod.

Click here to check out the latest casting for Met season.


What gets you over the hump? Tell us in an email to or tweet us @diydancer #getoverthehump


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