Boston Ballet's Paulo Arrais Drinks in the Fantasy of 'The Nutcracker'

by Steve Duffy

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday November 25, 2021
Originally published on November 23, 2021

This week marks the return of Boston Ballet's "The Nutcracker" in company Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen's acclaimed production. Last year it was cancelled due to COVID.

"I can't imagine a better way to bring live dance back than with the beloved production of 'The Nutcracker,"" said Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen last June when announcing the production. The 35-performance run will feature many dancer debuts in new roles, showcasing the vast talent within the Company and providing many opportunities for dancers to shine in various roles.

Amongst them is Paulo Arrais, the dancer and choreographer who has the role of Drosselmeyer in Tchaikovsky's ballet. The mysterious Drosselmeyer is the catalyst for the ballet's action, which takes young Clara on a dreamlike, Christmas Eve adventure. The Brazilian-born dancer has worked internationally, and has played many leading roles.

In 2010, Arrais joined Boston Ballet as a Company dancer. He was promoted to soloist in 2011 and to principal dancer in 2012. Arrais returned to the Boston Ballet for the 2014-2015 season following a year with the Norwegian National Ballet.

In 2018 he choreographed Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue" in a work entitled "ELA-Rhapsody in Blue," which Arrais called a "tribute to the feminine in all of us." "Inventive, compelling movement ranging from intricate, sophisticated partnering to eye-catching patterning with the large group," wrote The Boston Globe about the premiere.

EDGE spoke to Arrais about "The Nutcracker," ballet, and his career.

EDGE: How and when did you discover a talent for dance?

Paulo Arrais: I loved dancing and performing from a very young age. I was a big fan of Brazilian singer Angélica Ksyvickis. I would tell my parents and family to sit down so I could perform for them. Around nine years old, I decided to take theater classes. There was a great theater company in my hometown. It was there that I started to take ballet classes. I immediately fell in love with it and started to really take dance seriously.

EDGE: You've been with the Boston Ballet for 11 years! I feel like that's a long time.

Paulo Arrais: I love being part of the Boston Ballet. They are definitely my family. I have a really beautiful relationship with Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen. I love that the Boston Ballet family respects me. I have danced for other companies, but the Boston Ballet is the best.

EDGE: What do you enjoy most about playing Drosselmeyer in "The Nutcracker"?

Paulo Arrais: I'm a dreamer, so I love to lose myself in each role that I am playing. I love to drink in the fantasy of it all. It is so important to not have any resistance to the role, but to really connect. I love this role because Drosselmeyer is mystical, and he is the architect of Clara's magical adventure.

EDGE: What makes this role challenging, something perhaps the audience wouldn't immediately see?

Paulo Arrais: Introducing the story to the audience and dropping the invisible wall between the dancers and the audience. Once that happens, especially with the younger audience members, the story becomes so much more to everyone involved.

EDGE: Do you have a favorite scene?

Paulo Arrais: When Drosselmeyer introduces Clara to the Sugar Plum Fairy. It is such a beautiful moment to be able to show her that world and share in the beauty of it all.

EDGE: Have you ever had to deal with negative stereotypes against male dancers? If so, how did you cope?

Paulo Arrais: Yes, when I was living in Brazil. I came from a very religious small town. As a kid who loved to dance, I was bullied. It wasn't until I started dance classes that I started to feel accepted. People celebrated me and accepted me for my uniqueness, and it was great. I started to have more friends and started to grow as a person and a dancer. I was able to cope because of the love and support I received from my dance family.

EDGE: What was it like growing up in Brazil and being part of the LGBTQ community?

Paulo Arrais: It was scary. Although Brazil is very open and accepting of the gay lifestyle, some regions are not. I left Brazil at a very young age, and was lucky enough to do so. I got to experience a more accepting culture when I lived in Europe. I didn't really have to hide who I was. I am very grateful for that.

EDGE: As a dancer, your life and routine must be pretty strict. Are there times you just want to eat a donut?

Paulo Arrais: I do like donuts! Since I do burn a lot calories, I try not to fall in the trap of eating too much. I do drink wine on the weekends. For the most part, I really watch what I am putting into my body.

EDGE: Why do you think "The Nutcracker" has remained a timeless holiday tradition for so many?

Paulo Arrais: Christmas is the most magical time of the year, and so is 'The Nutcracker.' The show gives everyone a few hours away from the hustle and bustle of life and transports [the audience] to a beautiful dreamland. The dancing, the music, and the story is just so magical.

EDGE: What holiday traditions do you have?

Paulo Arrais: I do love Christmas, but I really love Thanksgiving. I love all the food that I get to eat.

The Boston Ballet's "The Nutcracker" runs November 26 through December 26 at the Citizens Bank Opera House. For more information, visit the Boston Ballet website.