Aitor Arrieta, First soloist at ENB London was interviewed by Mathilde Menusier.
“I´m from the Basque Country, in the North of Spain. My family has always been involved with arts. Some used to sing, others played instruments and other danced. They used to dance Basque traditional dance, so, aged 6, I started practicing this dance in my hometown’s Music and Dance School.
Few years later, I started playing the cello and the piano. I used to go to Basque dance competitions, and to improve my technique, my parents decided to take me to ballet classes. I wasn’t taking it really seriously at first. I used to go two hours a week. When I turned 14, I changed to another ballet academy where I had 6/7 hours class a week.
I decided I wanted to be a professional dancer after going to a Ballet Summer course when I was 16, that summer course changed me. We were dancing for 5-6 hours a day, doing big jumps, partnering girls, I loved it. When I came back home, the first thing I told my parents was that I wanted to be a professional dancer and that I wanted to go to Madrid to study it. As I had been dancing since I was really little, it did not come to my parents as a surprise.
Art for me as a child was everything and still is everything today. I have danced and played an instrument since I am a young child. After school, in the afternoon I used to go to take different classes, and on weekends had a competition, or a rehearsal, or a show. Arts have been in my life and my family’s lives since I was born. I don’t know who I would be right now would I have not had art around me as a kid, maybe completely a different person.
I love dancing with another person. In that Summer Course I learnt a lot. It was the first time that I was having classes to improve my partnering skills and I loved it. Also the feeling of being on stage is amazing, even when I was in school, that feeling to be in front of so many people is indescribable.
My first performance memory is with the Basque dance. We used to perform on stage or on the streets. Those are great memories, as it’s how I started dancing, my first steps. I used to rehearse so much for all the performances, I wanted to be perfect. But my best stage memory is dancing Manon. All the pas de deux and solos are amazing, really challenging, and all really different from another. I felt at times full and at times empty through the ballet, it was quite special.
The power of dance is unlimited, and I have experienced that so many times. My mum used to work in a nursing home giving music, painting and dancing classes. I used to go sometimes in the afternoons when I was a kid. I could see people who couldn’t concentrate enough to walk or to have a normal conversation with others could sing, paint and even dance. I always thought that was amazing.
I’m that kind of dancer who thinks that everything comes because of practice and hard work. Some people may have an easier body or better coordination but I do think that with hard work everyone can achieve what they want. Still, of course the dancer I am right now is not only the outcome of hard work. I have experienced a lot of things throughout my life and I try to use those experiences when dancing. I think that even if two different persons have the same body and have practiced the same, their respective life stories will make them dance differently.
When I was in Spain, many kids wrote to me saying that they wanted to be like me, they wanted to work hard to be a professional dancer and dance on the stages that I perform on. It’s nice to receive messages like this, and I try to reply to all of them with supporting words, so they can fight to achieve whatever they want in life.
Dance and music, art in general, should be accessible to every child. But of course even more so for unprivileged ones. Art can be a way for them to escape their everyday lives and focus on something else. Also it can help them open their eyes to diversity, to differences, aspects of people and life that maybe they can’t see at home. It can give hope to kids. It can help them to feel more included to society, feel part of a community and have more respect for others.
First thing we need to do as an artist is try to bring art to the younger generation as much as we can. If they don’t know about the different arts, they can’t know if they are good at them or not, if they enjoy them or not. It would be amazing if every child in the world could have access to the arts. The talent of children should be expressed and known and we must support that talent, trying to organise ballet classes, exhibitions or concerts.
We, as artists, have the responsibility to entertain the audience, but not only, we can also change their lives. I’ve seen so many films, paintings, shows… that changed how I understood the world. So I believe that with my art, with our art as artists, we can influence people’s lives and people’s ways of thinking, and with this also bring hope to our audience”.