March Feature Interview: Glauco Araujo

Photo By: Jaqlin Medlock

Glauco Araujo is a Brazilian-born professional dancer and actor trained both here in the U.S. and in Brazil. In Rio, Glauco danced with the Rio Dance Company (modern dance), as well as with the integrated dance company ANDEF (disability dance). In 2012 Glauco represented Brazil in the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games in London. And from 2015 to 2017 Glauco acted and danced lead roles at Momenta Dance Company with a repertoire including Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham, and Charles Weidman, as well as classic choreographers like August Bournonville, Mikhail Fokine, Jules Perrot, and Marius Petipa; and disability choreographers Alice Sheppard and Ginger Lane.

Glauco was drawn to NYC in early 2017 and was given a scholarship in ballet at Alvin Ailey from 2017 to 2018. In 2018 he was the featured dancer in ”Aria,” a duet choreographed for him by Pedro Ruiz, with live accompaniment by the Camerata NY Orchestra. Glauco danced and acted the following year in Sasha Spielvogel’s new musical Come Back Once More So I Can Say Goodbye — a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. Glauco’s next featured role was in Joshua Bergasse’s musical A Crossing, performed with Barrington Stage Company.

Recently, Glauco performed in a short bio-pic entitled Dance for Freedom, highlighting the challenges people of color face today, and which has garnered recognition as the First-Place Recipient of the Dr. David Milch Foundation/CCNY Award in a short film competition.

JRK: Before we get into the interview can you tell readers a bit about Glauco Araujo, where you are from, and all that good introductory stuff?

Photo By: Joshua Ramos

GA: I was born in a suburb of Rio and from an early age, I had a passion for anything that had to do with the arts—theatre, dance, and film. I was influenced by what I saw on TV and in the movies. I learned that there was a great big world out there that had limitless possibilities beyond the life I knew in Rio. As a boy, I would use my imagination and create imaginary scenarios to occupy and pass the time. My mom tells a funny story that as a boy, every time a particular soap opera would start, I would pretend to be on it and go in front of the TV and dance around and play-act as if I was in the program. One day when I was there in front of the television, my mother was standing outside doing the laundry. She heard a noise and ran to the living room to see what had happened. I was so involved that I grabbed the television and it fell on my head. She describes the scene arriving in the living room and the television on the floor and seeing a huge bruise on my head. I believe that it was after that day that I made a pact with myself that one day I would be on TV for real.

JRK: You are Brazilian born and immigrated to the United States. Can you tell us a bit about your immigration experience and what it was like coming to a strange, new land? What prompted your immigration to the United States?

Photo By: Joshua Ramos

GA: It took a lot of courage for me to leave Rio and my family and friends and to come to the U.S. considering that I didn’t speak the language. When I first came to New York for the summer, I took as many classes as I could, and then I was unexpectedly invited for a summer program at a modern company in Chicago. I planned on returning to New York after the summer, but they offered me a job. I took the job and stayed in Chicago for two years, but I was lured back to New York when I was offered the possibility of a scholarship to Alvin Ailey School. It was the beginning of my deep connection with New York. I’ve been living here for four years. And I don’t see myself anywhere else in the world. I love this city even though it may not be the easiest city to negotiate with its fast pace, crowding, and super high energy.

But I’m home here and I’m safe and surrounded by good friends and new opportunities every day. I’ve been fortunate to have friends born here in the U.S., and others who have lived here for many years, who have helped me to understand the American culture and its norms and ways.

JRK: What were some of the struggles and challenges you encountered when you arrived in the United States?

Photo By: Joshua Ramos

GA: I think at first it was the language. I didn’t speak any English the very first time I arrived here in New York. I remember that there were days when I felt so unhappy because I couldn’t talk to people and depended on others to help me. It’s very complicated and frustrating when you can’t express your feelings. Everything changed when I started to work in the theater more intensely and it was the theater where I managed to develop my English language skills better. All the work rehearsing before a show, all the work preparing for character development, the interaction with the other actors, and all the people involved in the production – it gave me the chance and forced me to communicate in English. The rehearsals helped me not only artistically. But helped me to become more fluent and confident in English. As time went by, my vocabulary grew, and my interactions became more natural. I always felt at home when I was on stage, and for the first time, the whole process made me feel at ease with other people. I could express myself better, without judgment, without the fear that I either didn’t understand or that I couldn’t make myself understood.

At first, I felt as if I had been saved from the endless cold and wind of Chicago. I felt at home. In New York with all its boundless culture. But it was a long process until I got used to everything in the city. New York as exciting as it is, is not an easy city to negotiate. I went through a very long emotional process adapting to the rigors of this metropolis. Therapy helped me a lot. I was also very lucky. I had a lot of people who helped me both personally and professionally. Dancing was my only form of communication at the beginning, it was where people could see me perform, and it was my way of communicating with the world. I was able to branch out with dance as my center and my foundation.

JRK: You are a professional dancer and actor. Can you tell us a bit about your experience while in Brazil, and how you became interested in dance and acting?

GA: In Rio, in my late teens, I danced with the Rio Dance Company (modern dance), as well as with the integrated dance company ANDEF (disability dance). And in 2012, I was rewarded for my talent and skill, and I had the great honor of representing Brazil in the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games in London. and where the future might take me. It was an awesome and wondrous feeling — a mystical feeling leaving me with a longing to move forward with resolve and hope.

JRK: What were some of the first professional gigs you got after coming to the United States?

GA: I think I have been blessed in my journey as an artist here in the U.S. In Chicago, I was able to do leading roles in dance, including classics from Ballet Russe, as well as the Modern Dance repertory, which was a dream for me. And in Chicago, I had an entire ballet created for me, which was inspired by my own story as a child growing into young adulthood. The name of the show Melodious Marco, an original ballet created by Sarah Najera and inspired by my life story as a youth, performed in Chicago. It told a story of a young man trying to connect to the truth with himself to find authenticity, meaning, and love in his life. As a child, growing up in a farm country outside of Rio de Janeiro, it recalls my being at my bedroom window in the evenings, looking up to the open and seemingly endless night sky, and meditating upon the stars. I would stand at the window for hours, for nights on end, gazing upon all those stars thinking how the constellation of stars represented a remarkable and momentous world. And I wondered about my destiny. It was a very special moment in my life. I was facing at that point many difficult challenges, but I was fortunate to have other people inspire and boost my morale. When I arrived in New York I got a scholarship to Alvin Ailey School and in my Dance debut in NY, I was able to dance with The Camerata New York Orchestra with a choreography created for me. And afterward, I was able to do two Off-Broadway musicals.

JRK: You are currently working successfully in the New York theater scene. Can you tell us a bit about what you have done and are doing?

GA: Last year in the middle of the pandemic, I was invited to perform in a short-film duet, which received 5 awards from online dance festivals. I teamed several times, beginning in 2018 to the present, with the award-winning German dancer/director Severine Reisp. Our films have been recognized in several international film festivals: A Tango to Remember — Best Romance Film, Los Angeles Film Awards; Best Film, The Atman Film Festival; Cinematic Award Winner, Cyprus International Film Festival; Ruminate –Best Musical and Best Dance Choreography, Oniros Film Awards; Best Film, Los Angeles Film Awards.

Dance for Freedom — First Place Winner of The Dr. David Milch Foundation/ CCNY Short Film Competition; Another film, Lucid, written and directed by Juan Wang has received a Best Film award from The Heibei Television Artists Association.

JRK: What have been some of your most memorable performances and/or jobs you have had?

GA: In my first year in New York, I was able to perform with The Camerata New York Orchestra with a choreography created for me. And afterward, I was able to do two Off-Broadway musicals. I danced and acted the following year in Sasha Spielvogel’s new musical Come Back Once More So I Can Say Goodbye — a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. I was featured in my role in Joshua Bergasse’s musical A Crossing, performed with Barrington Stage Company.

And I began to audition and act with several acting companies in New York, where I got to play featured roles. Two different and wonderful parts that jump out at me are Pierre Barillet’s Forty Carats, where I play the romantic lead; and in Tina Howe’s Museum. My comic turn in that play got me other comic roles, one which I just did in a new play called Sheila’s Best Friend Max, where I pay a robot lover.

JRK: What are you more passionate about? Acting or dance? Or do you have an equal affinity for both?

GA: I love both! My professional career began as a dancer in Brazil and I was lucky to have had success performing with an integrated dance company ANDEF for several years, and then again in Chicago with Momenta, another integrated dance company. It was very challenging and so incredibly rewarding dancing with people in wheelchairs.

JRK: Coming off a horrendous 4 years in terms of how immigrants have been treated by the former administration, what were some of the things that pained you the most being an immigrant yourself, and listening to some of the not-so-nice things about those coming from foreign lands?

GA: I’m not going to deny that living through four years of the past administration was extremely painful on many levels. To be in a country where the president spoke in the most disparaging terms about immigrants was heartbreaking.

I was in the streets when it was announced that Biden had won the election and the feeling of relief and jubilation was felt all over the city and the country with people cheering in the streets. It was wonderful!

JRK: What kind of support systems were you able to tap into after arriving here that helped you through the struggles and challenges you faced, and do you still rely on some of those support systems?

GA: Most important, I was able to develop friendships with kind and supportive people—many of whom, older and wiser than I, had been in professional theater and dance. I have friends who performed on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in film, and on TV. They’ve taught me so much about the business side of “show business.” It’s not just about honing your skills as an actor or dancer but also learning to be a good businessperson as you navigate a career in the arts.

JRK: What is coming up next for Glauco Araujo? Any exciting plans and gigs you wish to share?

GA: Every day is an adventure. I look for new opportunities all the time. When you’re in the arts, it’s not like having a 9-5 job, where you know where you’ll be Monday through Friday. Almost everything is online now, and I also have an agent who sends me out on calls. Last week, I did a very exciting video and print job for AMTRAK. We filmed on the train as we traveled back and forth from Washington, DC. Things happen rapidly, so who knows what tomorrow will bring.

JRK: Do you have any final words of wisdom you wish to impart to readers or talk about anything that has not been covered?

GA: Be positive and supportive, encouraged to see each day with all its promise and potential. “Today’s the day and make the very most of it.” And that’s my advice to everyone, actor or otherwise, treat each day as if it’s a gift. Give it your all then let go and see where things take you.

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