Joey Arrigo is an aerialist, dancer and choreographer from the Greater Toronto Area. He hit our radar while performing on the final season of So You Think Can Dance Canada. He started his career with Cirque du Soleil Kooza and has now honed his talents and proven his artistic vision with his appearance in VOLTA as Waz. He took some time out of his tour to speak to Equality365 about his experience and the newest show.
Earle Dutton (ED): How did you get interested in dance?
Joey Arrigo (JA): Wow, that was about 23 or 24 years ago. I was 2 years old. It was the classic Chorus Line story. I was watching sis go pitter pat. I was there with my mom to drop her off and pick her up. You kind of couldn’t pull me away from the building. I was mesmerized by everything I was seeing. I was drawn to it so quickly, and everyone could see that immediately. They signed me up when I was 3 and the rest is kind of history. I just found so much in it that fueled me. It wasn’t long after that I discovered Cirque du Soleil and all of the magic that entailed. My parents had a VHS tape of Cirque du Soleil and I was just drawn to it. About 16 years later I booked my first job with Cirque.
ED: So is this your second show with Cirque du Soleil?
JA: That is correct. My first time, I was in a show called Kooza. I was there for two and a half years. That was my time to play a very classic Cirque du Soleil character and explore the business. That was all a real blessing. In doing so, they offered me the opportunity to participate in the creation of Volta. That was something that was really on my bucket list.
ED: How does it feel to be the lead in this new show?
JA: It is a lot of responsibility and it is a lot personal pressure that I put on myself. This show has gone through so many ins and outs in the last two and a half years. It is a really great opportunity. The show itself revolves around my character. The show is constantly evolving. The gooey cliché answer is: it’s a privilege to share who I am and my art in this show with all of the different audiences that come and see our show over time.
ED: I heard you had to turn down your first opportunity to perform with Cirque. What happened there?
JA: I did. I had some self-expectations of what should be going on in my life at that time. I was just about to graduate from high school and So You Think Can Dance Canada was going into its final season. I had expectations from everyone that trained me and everybody who knew that I was just about to turn 18. There were just so many expectations that I would be on that television show. Cirque du Soleil had always been my dream and I knew the role that I was offered would be a huge responsibility. It required a great deal of stage presence and commanding of the stage. I didn’t feel as though I really had those skills at that time. I was not going to be fired from my dream job for anything. I felt as though I didn’t want to take that risk at that point in my life. I respectfully declined at that point and really kicked myself for it. When I turned 21, three years later, I did land that role. I really stayed in their face and returned stronger and better.
ED: How does your character Waz’s story reflect your own?
JA: I think as human beings, we are constantly losing ourselves and re-finding ourselves. With age and certain things that happen in our lives we tend to lose ourselves. Waz’s story is all about him accepting who he is and loving himself. There are always people in your life who accept you for who you are but the most important person who needs to accept you is you. As an artist and person in their twenties, I am all over the place all of the time. I love having those moments where I can look at something about myself and see something that maybe I didn’t love or struggled with at some point. I feel that is really makes you stronger when you can look at those things and accept them. I am grateful that I was able to learn a lot from this story. I am constantly changing because of it.
ED: Do you think being openly gay helped you tune into some of the ideas behind your character?
JA: Yes and no. I came out at a very young age. I was about 13 years old and had just graduated 8th grade. I knew that about myself my entire life but that was the first time I really said it out loud. I went into high school just practically radiating a pink bubble around me. I was just the gayest thing in the world. I just couldn’t hide that anymore. No one was surprised. That was one of the earlier freeing moments about myself. Even people who come out later still have realizations and learning experiences about themselves and their journey.
ED: What is your favorite part of Cirque du Soleil Volta right now?
JA: My goodness, that is definitely something that is forever changing. We have a hair hanger. You heard it right. She is a hair hanger. She hangs from her hair and does this beautiful acrobatic dance in the air while she is completely suspended by her hair. She is almost this mythical being of a free spirit. I think it is one of the most powerful symbols in our show.
Cirque du Soleil VOLTA runs at Marymoor Park through November 4, 2018. Gate and show time vary. Get more info and 20% off tickets here. You can also use promo code EQUALITY20 if needed. Remember to allow plenty of time for traffic and parking.
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