Ballet Stars

Jeffrey Cirio on Joining English National Ballet, Plus His Advice for Dancers Contemplating a Career Abroad

Cirio in English National Ballet's "Manon." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, courtesy English National Ballet.

Jeffrey Cirio's meteoric rise is what dreams are made of. A Pennsylvania native, he joined Boston Ballet in 2009 and quickly rose up the ranks to principal dancer by 2012. While he felt Boston was "home," he left to join American Ballet Theatre as a soloist in 2015, where he was promoted to principal after only one year. Now, after a four-month stint as a guest artist with English National Ballet last season, this all-American boy has joined the company as a full-time lead principal. It's hard to believe he's only 27.

Just a day after his performance as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake with Alina Cojocaru last month, Cirio sat down with Pointe to give an update on his new life living and working in London.


How has your first full season with ENB been going?

Good so far; I'm really enjoying myself. I love London. I felt like it was an easy transition because I guested for four months while I was still at ABT. Tamara Rojo first offered me that guest contract so I could see how the company was, regardless of whether I joined or not. It was a good test for me to know what I was getting myself into.

You've come a long way from Boston Ballet, then ABT, and now ENB. You're not even 30 yet. How has it all felt for you?

It's moved way too fast, but in a good way. I feel like I've lived in the moment of everything, and I'm so grateful for all of my opportunities.

I sometimes forget that I'm only 27. I always feel like I'm older than I actually am just because, in ballet, you almost have to grow up faster.

Cirio and Joseph Caley in Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Song of the Earth." Photo by Laurent Liotardo, courtesy ENB.

What has kept you sane?

My family is super supportive, but also super level-headed. They have always instilled a sense of being grateful for the opportunities you get and not take them for granted.

You recently partnered with Alina Cojocaru in Swan Lake. What was that like?

It was the first time I partnered her. She's an amazing person and artist to work with. It was a learning experience, and I'm still learning from her. Alina thinks about almost every single detail throughout anything she's doing. We changed a certain step a couple of times towards the end of the fourth act—the embrace right before she dives. We were playing around with what would work for us and what we wanted to feel in the moment. So that's just one example. It's been a very interesting and rewarding opportunity to dance with her.

The good thing about ENB, and also when I was dancing at ABT, was the fact that I didn't always dance with the same person, so there was constant change. Even now, I feel I'm constantly growing as a partner. Everyone has something to give, and I've learned different things from each person.

Are there any roles you are still hoping to dance?

I still haven't done Albrecht in Giselle. I'd also like to start doing more new works.

What are your goals or resolutions for 2019?

I just want to grow more as an artist. I want to keep learning. I also told myself that I would write more to give myself notes that I can look back on.

How is everything going with Cirio Collective, the company you founded with your sister (Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio)?

Good. What I've learned is, because of the time difference, I have to keep up with emails constantly! We will announce our season soon and also more details about our first international tour this year.

Do you have any advice for dancers who are contemplating making a leap internationally for their career?

What I did was I really took down what I wanted in my career and what I felt was right for me at the time. It takes a lot of self-reflection. I contemplated my family and friends. I knew that they would always be there for me, but I needed to see exactly what was out there. When I made the move from Boston to ABT, that was hard, but once I did it, I felt I was comfortable enough to make another leap if I had to.

Take the time to self-reflect and see what you want to do in your career, whether that's new rep or classical, and evaluate the pros and cons. Sometimes you just have to live outside the box and see what's out there.

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