Hi! My name's Brian Castillo. I'm a dancer living in NYC. I grew up across the Hudson in New Jersey, and studied Film and TV at Penn State. I love my friends, family, and city. I'm a very laid back kind of guy and my philosophy is that you need to enjoy life as best you can, while you can, so get out there and do what you want. And don't sweat the small things. I'm currently dancing in a show called Acoustica Electronica, produced by ToUch Performance Art. It's a 360-degree immersive dance/theater experience with original electronic beats mixed by our DJ, The Wig. It's been described as "Cirque Du Soleil meets a rave." So, you can imagine how much fun it is to call that "work." We currently have a residency at Club Oberon in Cambridge, MA through March 2014. We also perform at Santos Party House in NYC pretty regularly. Come check us out!
Talk me through an average day in the life of you?
On a good day I'll get up around 9am. I'll head down to Peridance for a morning class then grab lunch before heading back home to Harlem to chill for a bit. Then it's off to Broadway Dance Center for more class. On any given day there might be a rehearsal or a shift at my restaurant thrown in there. After all that's done, I'll grab dinner with friends and call it a day.
How old were you when you discovered dancing is what you wanted to do for the rest of your days?
I'd taken ballet when I was very young and then some ballroom in college but it wasn't until my early 20's that I discovered my love of Contemporary dance. I met some other dancers at my job at the time and through them I was convinced to start to taking classes. I always wished I had stuck with it from a younger age so my technique would be more finely tuned now. But I've been lucky enough to learn from great teachers and be surrounded by very talented artists. And the beautiful thing about dance is that your skill set doesn't have to be anything like that of the dancer next to you. You can make your movement and your style into something special and when you own that, no one can touch you.
You have trained and performed with some great people, Cecilia Marta, Dana Foglia, and your mentor Brice Mousset. What have you learned from these greats?
I've taken some great lessons from all of my favorite teachers. From Brice: the philosophy of organic movement, how one body part moves because another action caused it. No part of us just moves by itself, and the flowing and stopping of this energy mixed in with a little drama can create such beauty. From Cecilia I've learned how to tap into my inner energy, my inner beast, and draw strength from my core and to relate dance to the flow of chakras. She also taught me that if the back row of an audience isn't getting the same experience as the front row, you're not doing your job as an artist. Dana has helped instill in me the attitude of going hard or going home. If you're not willing to put in extreme work, sweat, blood, and tears, then what's the point? Why should anyone pay to see you?? Another one of my favorite lessons was from Cherice Barton who taught me that if you're only worried about how "pretty" or "cool" your movement is, it means nothing. You have to make it "real" and "human" first. Truly dancing as myself, Brian Castillo, is what makes my movement compelling, not the height of a kick or the amount of turns I can do.
A life of a dancer isn’t easy. I’ve seen Black Swan lots of times, so naturally I imagine you have really horrible feet! What do you do to keep fit and free from injury?
In the warmer months I ride my bike everywhere. From Harlem to the West Village to Brooklyn and back. I try not to take the subway at all if I don't have to. That fare is getting too expensive! I also love taking yoga at Laughing Lotus whenever I can fit it in. And of course I need to make it to my favorite dance classes as often as possible. Other than that, I just end up walking A LOT, like most New Yorkers. And p.s. I've seen feet waaaay worse than mine!
What has been one of your favourite performances to date – and why?
Hmm, that's difficult because I've been lucky enough to see so many amazing artists perform over the years. But one of my faves was the first time I saw Bjork live. It was outdoors during the summer at Coney Island and Sigur Ros was the opener. Seeing these two unique, strange, and beautiful artists on the same stage was just an amazing experience that I'll never forget.
You have also recently taken up stilt-walking. Can you see yourself joining a circus one day? Like, how amazing would that be!
Haha, I think that could be fun! The company I work with right now feels a bit like a circus sometimes. A bunch of fun, crazy characters with unique and beautiful talents. We actually did perform in a tent, the Spiegeltent, during the Outside The Box Festival in Boston last July. It was so much fun and actually one of my favorite shows that we've done so far because it was one-night-only and we had to completely adapt the show, and all if it's many technical elements, to this new space. Afterwards, I thought it would be amazing if we could take the tent on the road and bring our show all around the country. Maybe one day.
Is stilt-walking the only circus-related talent you have mastered? Or can you also do other great things like juggle and tame lions?
I can juggle really well! But only for a few seconds, then the balls, or apples, or whatever else I might be using go flying everywhere. I've also had the chance to play on the Lyra, which is a big hoop suspended from the ceiling, and since then I really want to learn aerials.
That sounds amazing! You recently starred in a Franck Glenisson editorial for Schon magazine. Is capturing dance in a photo easier than it looks?
It seems pretty easy when you get to work with someone with such great energy and talent, like Franck. Things go best when it's a true collaboration between dancer/model and photographer, bouncing ideas off each other and letting both parties do what they do best. Of course not every idea works, and not every image you had in your mind looks as good on film, but it's all about being playful and confident in your role and being willing to go out of your comfort zone.
Can you talk about any fun projects you are working on at the moment or are due to start on early next year?
After working on several different projects this past year, I'm currently focusing just on Acoustica Electronica, which is constantly being changed and revamped. It's the kind of show that you can go see multiple times. And many people do. It's constantly growing and getting better and crazier so it's definitely one of the most fun projects I've ever been a part of.
A guilty pleasure you can’t seem to quit?
A song that makes your heart skip a beat?
'Lovesong' by the Cure. The original and the best out of any of the covers that have been done over the years. The lyrics are so simple but so beautiful and haunting. A close second: 'Dreams' by Fleetwood Mac.
How do you like your eggs in the morning?
Which flavour of ice cream best describes your personality?
If the world was coming to an end and you were allowed one last kiss, who would be lucky enough to land on your lips?
What happens next?
Choreography. I've recently started working with musicians/engineers Eric Namaky and Casey Allard, two charismatic and talented young composers of dreamy electro-pop that's both fun and dark. The goal is to create a music/dance collaboration and produce some experimental video as well as live performances that will eventually include more multi-media. Besides that, I hope to continue being a part of projects that I can really get behind in body and spirit. As performers, we're lucky if we can get hired to do things we're truly moved by. My dream is to keep working with inspirational, open-minded artists for years to come.