Arcadian Broad is not new to Olympic Ballet Theatre (OBT). A soloist at The Sarasota Ballet in Florida, he wowed audiences with his dashing guest performance as Basilio in OBT’s production of Don Quixote last May. He returned in June to choreograph and perform in ballets for Summer Performance. This February, he is back in Edmonds with a world premiere of “O.D.D.” (Oliver Davis Dances) in Debuts. We sat down with Arcadian to chat about his new work.
What is O.D.D. about?
O.D.D. is an acronym for Oliver Davis Dances, the album by Oliver Davis, a British composer of the music I used for this ballet. But it’s also a play on the word “odd” because this piece is about being odd! It explores the idea of looking back at a time when you are a teenager and trying to fit in to be like everyone else. Imagine being back in high school at your prom – how odd and awkward you may have felt. Then, you grow up and realize that fitting in is not all that’s cracked up to be. It’s better just to be you, with your quirks and oddness, because that’s what makes you unique. So, this ballet shows how the dancers progress from this awkward, fragmented, odd energy with each other to becoming whole and fluid human beings.
How did your choice of music influence your choreography?
I’m pretty heavily inspired by music, and Oliver Davis Dance album has been on the list of music I wanted to choreograph to. It’s such a beautiful composition with a variety of emotions: there are fun pizzicatos, furious violin passages, and then some incredibly beautiful legato notes. Listening to this album brought some flashbacks of my childhood and formative teenage years and became an inspiration for this piece.
Your choreography style is very unique – how did you develop all those movements?
I trained at Juilliard, where the spark for choreography and creating new movements opened up for me. I grew up training at a small jazz studio, going to lots of competitions. And when you’re brought up in that world, unlike the formal ballet world, you “do first and ask questions later.” So, I take my reckless abandon in mixing all the styles I have been trained in to create my own vocabulary of movement. Instead of calling steps by their traditional names – tendu, plié, sauté, and arabesque, I would say “the swoopy,” “the elephant,” and “the helicopter” steps. I think that lets me add my personal flavor and keeps my choreography fresh and vibrant.
Arcadian Broad & OBT dancers
Tell us about the costumes for O.D.D.
When it comes to costumes, I want them to reflect the concept and the feeling of the piece. In O.D.D., I imagine that there are little floating bubbles of paint, and then they just explode and create splashes of color everywhere. So, the dancers’ costumes are that splash of color leaving their mark behind when they are on stage.
What has been your experience of working with OBT company?
This is my third time working with OBT (between being a choreographer and a dancer). What I really admire about OBT is that the dancers are fearless. Usually, on the first day I come in to work with a company as a choreographer, I do an improv exercise – it helps us to build trust with each other. It also allows me to see how far they’re willing to go with their movements and their own bodies, so I can best choreograph on them and make my vision happen. And sometimes, it’s pretty rough when you go from company to company, but OBT dancers are not afraid to experiment and push their boundaries and work together as a group in creative ways. It was inspiring to see, and it definitely shaped the relationship between the characters in the ballet.
Alberto Gaspar, Carlos Narvaez, Elianna Langley, & Taylor Lim
What do you want the audience to take away from O.D.D.?
The beautiful thing about art and dance is that what they see is unique for each viewer. But I would love for the audience to just take away a little bit of happiness, a little bit of fun, and a little bit of laughter. The world is so serious, and the past few years have been tough. So, I think sometimes it’s good to go to the theater and just laugh and have a good time. And I hope that’s what I will do for the audience. You know, maybe transport them back to their teenage or middle school years and realize how far they’ve come in life and laugh with the dancers.
What do you find special about the double bill format of Debuts?
Debuts is a double bill of brand-new unseen works, which is great for the ballet world because we need to constantly bring new ideas to this art form. It’s important to keep the traditional full-length story ballets, but also to progress the art form forward for the next century. Programs like Debuts are great for choreographers like me – giving me the playground, space, and time to take whatever ideas and images I have in my head and just put them out into the world. It’s really a dream job.
Arcadian Broad is a soloist at The Sarasota Ballet in Florida. He has performed numerous principal roles in ballets such as Romeo & Juliet, Don Quixote, Coppélia, Swan Lake, Carmina Burana, The Firebird, Michael Pink’s Dracula, Val Caniparoli’s A Cinderella Story, Twyla Tharp’s Sinatra Suite, Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free, Septime Webre’s Wizard of Oz, Sir Peter Wrights Summertide, Sir David Bintley’s A Comedy of Errors, and Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Elite Syncopations.
Arcadian is also a dual Choreographer and Composer. He has created and premiered over 30 works, including two full-length ballets: Beauty & the Beast and WonderLand: Mad Tales of the Hatter. For his full-length productions, he also composed original orchestral scores. His choreography has been performed by Orlando Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Danceworks Chicago and seen on TV/streaming channels. Arcadian was a Top 10 finisher on America’s Got Talent and has appeared on The Ellen Show and So You Think You Can Dance. He enjoys sharing his knowledge and experiences with the next generation via summer programs and masterclasses all around the country
Photos by Katya Turnbow