The first time I saw Arcadian Broad, he was on my turf, attending a networking event at the Timucua arts house, the venue I direct. I think it was his first time there, and he paced slowly through the lobby. His measured steps suggested he might be assessing how much space there was for a jeté. There was slight tension on his face as he processed the sounds and semiotics of his surroundings. Maybe he was calculating how long he needed to be there. Maybe his mind was somewhere else entirely, reviewing steps for his next performance, or working out choreography for his upcoming ballet about the Mad Hatter, or refining a melody for that ballet or the next one.
I introduced myself and I told him I was going to be writing a story about him. My editor thought, as a fellow musician, I might have a fresh take on his work. At the end of the conversation I realized I had no sense of what he was thinking. He's comfortable, sure of himself, but doesn't give anything away. I was intrigued by his reserve – not the usual mode for an ambitious young artist at a schmoozefest, I thought – and then I went back to work, schmoozing.
It's happening: I'm inserting myself into the story, the pitfall of the celebrity profile. But don't we all do this with the wunderkinder, the child prodigies, the Macaulay Culkins and Harry Potters and, now, Arcadian Broads – measure ourselves against their outsize accomplishments?
Broad has been dancing professionally since he was a child, competing and supporting his family for years, and now at 22, he moves through the world with the confidence of LeBron James. How do I get to know someone so self-possessed – so, well, guarded – well enough to talk about him and not have him hate me for it? These are the thoughts in the back of my mind on a warm April morning as I walk up to Lineage in Mills 50, where I'll interview Orlando Ballet's celebrated dancer-actor-pianist-composer-choreographer.
But first, a little background.
In 2016, Orlando Ballet presented Arcadian Broad's Beauty & the Beast, which he both choreographed and composed, a massive rarity in the world of dance. Since December 2017, Broad has been Orlando Ballet's official Artist-in-Residence – the first ever named. Fittingly, his path to that unusual title has been anything but typical.
"I was 5 when I started, and it wasn't long after that I started going to clinics and stuff and doing the summer-course type of things ..."
Broad's not talking about dancing. He's talking about golf.
The Titusville native started golfing to be with his dad. It seems a rare happy memory with his now deceased father, who left the family when Broad was young.
"I still golfed heavily until about 14," Broad says. "That's when I started ballet." He was studying not just ballet but also jazz and hip-hop and taking piano lessons when the then-director of the Orlando Ballet school told him, he says, "'It's either ballet or nothing. You can't keep dipping your fingers in all the different pies.'
"And so I quit ballet."