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From Puerto Rico to New York: The choreographer Bryan Arias

Bryan Arias, (© limeART)
Bryan Arias, (© limeART)

"Dance can be a response to the message of the musical – that our shared humanity should always be stronger than the forces that seek to divide us." (Bryan Arias)

"If I had lived back then, I would have wanted to be in this film!" That's what Bryan Arias says about the movie adaptation of West Side Story, which he watched on videotape during his dance training. "The way the film addresses complex themes such as love, conflict, prejudice, and the pursuit of dreams deeply moves me. It reminds me that art can be a powerful means of communication and understanding even in the midst of adversities and tensions." Now, he is choreographing the upcoming new production of the musical at the Volksoper – and it seems, based on his biography, that he is perfectly suited for this work.

A deeply personal journey

Born in Puerto Rico, he moved to New York with his family at the age of nine. "For me, it is a deeply personal journey that I embark on with the choreography of the iconic West Side Story. A journey based on my Puerto Rican roots and my experience in salsa and contemporary dance. This production not only provides the opportunity to tell a timeless story of love and conflict but also the chance to bring in the rich cultural influences that have shaped my artistic identity."

Between urban origins and Puerto Rican roots

Arias, who has graced the stage as a dancer for renowned companies, has received numerous awards as a choreographer. His style is characterized by an exploration of human emotions and personal identities. For West Side Story, he will create contrasting dance styles for the Jets and the Sharks. "For the Jets, there is a sharper and more straightforward dance style. This approach underscores their urban origins and the tensions within their group. On the other hand, the Sharks are intended to embody a smoother and more flowing dance style. This style reflects their Puerto Rican roots and the warmth of their community."

Love instead of division and loss

Regarding the role of dance, Bryan Arias says, "Through movement, we can show that the essence of West Side Story is not division; it is about the universal human experience of love, loss, and the desire for connection."

Bryan Arias, (© Joao Canziani)
Bryan Arias, (© Joao Canziani)