A Ballet First for a Filipino Dancer

Jeffrey Cirio (Photo via The FilAm)

Jeffrey Cirio (Photo via The FilAm)

On July 1, just a year after naming dancer Jeffrey Cirio a soloist, the American Ballet Theatre promoted him to principal male dancer with the company. Cirio is the first Filipino male to be named principal dancer with the company. The FilAm’s Cristina DC Pastor spoke with Cirio about his achievement, his rapid ascent at ABT, and how he became a dancer.

“I was, wait what? It sort of just happened, but still shocking,” he said when interviewed by The FilAm. “I wasn’t expecting anything. There were people ahead of me.”

The comparison to fellow FilAm Stella Abrera may seem improper but couldn’t be helped. It took more than a dozen years before Stella made the leap from soloist to principal dancer of ABT, the country’s national ballet company. Jeffrey’s promotion, by industry standard, was of breakneck speed.

The 25-year-old Cirio started ballet school at age 9, inspired by his sister Lia, five years his senior, who is currently a principal dancer at the Boston Ballet.

“There’s always been ballet since I was born. I was surrounded by it, but didn’t think anything of it,” he said.

When Lia was 14, the Cirio family moved to a small town, Carlisle, Pa., home of the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) so Lia could receive more formal training. It was there that he was drawn to “something different” other than soccer, baseball and basketball. He asked his mother, Mimi Snyder, if he could try ballet just like Lia. Mimi was nothing short of encouraging.

For the Cirio siblings — Lia, Jeffrey and Gabriel — who were all home-schooled, ballet class was where they made friends.

“There were eight boys in my class. I have all these friends doing ballet together,” he said.

Go to The FilAm to read about Cirio’s parents’ own experiences with dancing, and to see a video of Cirio, his sister and other dancers performing in a studio.

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