Cirque du Soleil dancer, alum teaches guest class

A single count, and 16 dancers become eight seahorses flailing in the air.

“I want it to be bam! And all of the sudden there are four legs instead of two,” professional dancer Ari Loeb said as he enacted the transformation with his arms and legs.

And the count, of course, is a count of twelve rather than the traditional eight.

Loeb is all about pushing boundaries.

Loeb attended Harvard-Westlake until 1997, when he left after his junior year to pursue a professional dance career.

“The dance [at Harvard-Westlake] influenced me so much that I left to join an arts high school to cram in the most training I could,” Loeb said.

He is currently in Europe (most recently Sweden) performing as the star of the Cirque du Soleil show “Delirium” as an acrobat and dancer. At last year’s Academy Awards Ceremony, Loeb was one of the Pilobolus Dance Company performers that sculpted silhouettes of movie emblems and representations with their bodies. The three-pronged high heel from “The Devil Wears Prada,” and the infamous image of reptiles wriggling out of an airplane from “Snakes on a Plane” were just some of the tableaus formed by the company.

Loeb has danced in Cirque du Soleil performances, Pilobolus productions, and performed with the Momix Dance Company. He has also performed with HT Chen and Dancers in New York and Sean Greene in LA.

Loeb’s latest gig was teaching a guest class Jan. 9 for Advanced Dance I and Advanced Dance II students in our very own dance studio. He taught a combination from Pilobolus for an hour and a half. The dance involved knee jerks, unconventional jumps and challenging lifts.

Not only does Loeb embrace challenges and risks, but he has a deep personal connection to dancing, with powerful sources of inspiration and motivation.

“I am inspired by everything when I am dancing,” he said. “Especially love, hate, fear, music and pain beyond myself.”
He says his favorite projects are ones that have brought him to Greece, Spain, Chile, Italy or Hawaii.

“I love the outdoor venues, the opera, and the arenas,” he said. “My least favorite projects are all the film and television stuff; it is always boring and looks terrible. Inside a theater or arena, I can see the faces of thousands, all having seen pain, death, anguish and whatever terrible things have come into their lives, all smiling at the stage, cheering for human power and the music of the world.”

Loeb demonstrated one lift with Amanda Giuliani ’09, in which he lifted her over his head and rested her on his shoulder as she splayed her hands and feet like a seahorse. As the rest of the group tried to emulate the lift, Loeb, in his gray sweats and beanie, went around to demonstrate and encourage the dancers to take risks.

Guiliani’s actual partner, Matthew Krumpe ’08, enjoyed the innovation and untraditional nature of the class.

“What I loved about Ari’s class was his unique take on ballet and modern styles. His class was very contemporary and fresh. He had great music and really awesome choreography,” he said.

Other lifts involved rapid jerking and jumping on unexpected counts, and another move involved a line of dancers rising above an imaginary “hill” each on a certain beat.

His time at Harvard-Westlake gave him a very immediate connection to the students who took his class.

“My favorite part was the fact that he is a male dance alum, and I really look up to him for doing as much as he has done with his career,” Krumpe said.

Loeb said he was equally inspired by the students.

“You students inspire me in the best way I’ve experienced,” he said. “Really, like I want to have children, now.”

After the dancers ran the dance in two groups, they each did it once more, this time completely full-out and without Loeb’s help.

Dance teacher and Dance Concert director Cynthia Winter taught Loeb during high school, and she loved having a former student become the teacher for a day.

“I am so proud of Ari. He is very talented and has worked extremely hard. I treasure the lasting connection that I have with my students,” Winter said.