From "Chicago" with The Rep to "The Nutcracker" with the Arkansas Festival Ballet, Brian Earles' dance career may just be getting started, but his resume is already long. We caught up with the local choreographer to talk beginnings, staying sane in a pandemic and his fourth year as an instructor with the Children’s Tumor Foundation's Dancing With Our Stars event, which goes virtual this month.
Can you share your earliest memory of dance and how it made you feel?
Movement has always been a part of my life. As a child, I was put through trial periods of every sport. To my father, dance was not an option. He wanted me to be a hockey player like he had been. I can remember dancing through the outfield during soccer games. The sport I enjoyed the most was probably track and field because there is a similar sense of exhilaration for me — the freedom the movement gave, there has always been a dancer in me.
In high school, over the summers, I went to the Summer Theatre Academy at the Arkansas Arts Center Children’s Theatre. I would take movement classes with Jennifer Maddox, an early inspiration of mine. I can remember her telling me I wasn't scared of the floor and that she saw the dancer. That’s what gave me the courage to take my first dance class my senior year at North Little Rock High School 2018. From there I went on to minor in it at Hendrix College.
It’s curious because my earliest memories of dance are that of shame for wanting to be a part of it, and yet now it brings me so much joy.
What were some of the pop culture performances or performers that had the biggest influence on you growing up?
Pop culture wasn’t a huge part of my childhood. I spent most of it outside or in a book. However, Julie Andrews was and is a huge idol of mine. I loved to watch "The Sound of Music" growing up. That was our introduction and I’ve been an admirer ever since.
Was there a lightbulb moment when you knew dance would be an integral part of your life and future?
Movement and dance have always been on my mind. I did a lot of theater growing up, so the performance aspect was always there. It wasn’t until I was in college when I was working through a choreography project that I realized I loved choreography. Projecting my thoughts through the movement of bodies in space, it made sense in that moment. Choreographing also helped me make sense of my own feelings about the project I was working on, which was very fulfilling.
With many productions canceled this year, how have you continued to explore creative outlets?
I’ve tried to be as active as possible and keep my mind and imagination working. I’ve been writing, reading, even drawing. I try to get outside when I can. I’m trying to find enjoyment in the simple pleasure of my creative activities rather than the urgency and adrenaline of performance. It’s given me lots of time for introspection as well, and lots of creative inspiration. I had to shift gears again once it was time to begin thinking about the performance for DWOS.
You've spent multiple years as part of DWOS. What does it mean to you to be a part of this event and connected to this organization?
It’s a huge honor to get to work with DWOS and the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Three years ago, when they asked me to participate, I was thrilled! They’ve been so good to me and I’ve danced for some of the most incredible children. If my participation in the event in any way helps raise money or awareness for neurofibromatosis, I am glad to do it.
Though it'll look different, why should people still be excited about this year's event?
Why should the fight stop? It means we have just as much opportunity, despite the coronavirus and everything else 2020 has brought, to support researching a cure. It also shows the strength of this community and the love we all have for the organization and the work it is doing. The event is a little different this year, but our collective goal is still the same. We have not lost touch, even though we can’t be together. It’s poetic, really.
Dancing With Our Stars
Benefiting: Children's Tumor Foundation of Arkansas
When: Thursday, Sept. 10