Today we’d like to introduce you to Ari Loeb.
Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
My story began in the West Valley, in a crowded household in Chatsworth. Born in 1980, anything was possible, as long as it was only one thing.
I chose ballet. It was what nobody was doing, and it pleased my mother.
I was nine when it happened. I started training three times a week after school. This meant that I could be away from my parents for a few hours and wander off into something my own. It soon became six days a week, and it wasn’t long before running away from home for a few hours became running towards something instead. I met teachers who appeared like gay gods, and they encouraged me. I met women by the hundreds, and although they were occupied with their own studies and struggles, they also encouraged me. I met Mozart, Chopin, and Prokofiev, and they sealed the deal.
I trained ballet intensively until I was 17 years old. By then, I had had a stint at Idyllwild Arts Academy in the mountains of Southern California and was sure that I wanted to dance. But the ballet world didn’t seem cut out for me. Like a castle that looked much bigger from far away, up close it was kind of small and unwelcoming. Plus, my legs are kinda short.
Enter Modern Dance. That castle was huge and growing. I was going into college, so you could’ve sold me anything. If it was art, I would buy it and fall in love with it. I’m glad that I fell in love with dance. If I had to live all over again (knowing I’d herniate every vertebrate and eventually run out of money), I’d do it just the same.
I went to Purchase Conservatory in New York. I got expelled after my sophomore year. My parents put me on their “do not feed” list, and I left home. Sounds of despairing screams and smells of burning curtains faded behind me as I left.
New York was cold, but I built a life for myself. It started with small studio apartments with sheets hanging to divide “bedrooms” (you know the story). Restaurant jobs, and not the good ones. A few nights sleeping on the streets. I’d borrow a friend’s guitar to busk in the subway stations for change. $7.00 was all I needed, which was good because I sucked at guitar. That went on for almost two years.
I had a dream of joining the dance company, Momix. I got a job with them when I was 22, and I stayed with them for five years. It was better than I had hoped. In Momix, everything I had trained for was blasted with a magnifying ray gun. I met people who knew more than I had ever heard of.
I toured and created shows with various companies, including Pilobolus and Momix from age 20 to 28. I worked in 30 countries and over 350 cities worldwide. I toured with Cirque du Soleil as an acrobat and dancer. I helped choreograph on The Academy Awards, The Tony Awards, Sanremo Song Contest, various commercials, music videos, live events in Dubai, and an opera in Stockholm, Sweden.
At 29, I left New York. I lived in Las Vegas for a year, trying to get a job on another Cirque show out there. It didn’t happen, but I did get a lucky break, becoming friends and eventually creative partners with a choreographer who was working on a big show at the time. It was Danny Ezralow, and the show was “Spider-Man on Broadway”.
I moved back to New York, and I worked on Spider-Man for three and a half years. I was dance captain, swing performer, and because we felt like social activists at the time, promoter.
While working on Broadway, I started to meet strange, dense-yet-intelligent craftsmen who called themselves “stuntmen”. They were tremendous to me. They were graceful, well-trained, deadly, and very rich. At least the ones I met were.
I listened to their stories. I started training Tae Kwon Do and boxing. I started to learn their curriculum: camera lenses, fighting styles, motion capture, cars, weapons technique, hustling, etiquette, SAG-AFTRA – all of which means nothing to learn without lots of experience.
Finally, I picked up my cat and moved back to LA.
I worked as a stuntman for seven years, specializing in creature horror, mocap, and video games. I also worked as a movement specialist on some films, including Zombieland: Double Tap and Saints Row 5.
All the while, I was hard at work on my private opus: THUNDER, AZ, a horror novel and love letter to the American Southwest. THUNDER, AZ was published earlier this summer and is available in all formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound.org, and select independent booksellers around Los Angeles. The audiobook is approaching fast, no brakes, watch out! It’s loony, it’s quick-paced, and it’s bloody as the day you were born.
So here I am, back in the valley. Still got the cat, still love to dance and choreograph, still doing stunts. Still reading and writing horror (I’ll be showcasing my novel at MacLeod Brewing Oct. 15 and Flintridge Bookstore Nov. 27 – come say hi). Still suck at guitar.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Without getting too personal, I’d say I’ve struggled with a few things along the way. Earthquakes, fires, flesh-eating viruses, heartbreak, financial strain, insults, injuries, brainless agents that claim to appreciate the freelancer’s agenda. I ask myself if this is where I want to be, and if the answer is yes, then I find my way through the struggle. Luck comes sometimes. Friends come other times. Often times I just have to amputate. In an audition, I’ve caught my reflection in the mirror and been shocked by the look of desperation on my face. Forget that. But remember where you left it.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m a stuntman and movement specialist. I’m a creative in some ways and a seeker of sensations. What sets me apart from other choreographers and physical characters is my heart. I am a joyful and compassionate person, but there is a beautiful darkness in me. Kind of a goth pleasure-dome, where shadows are sanctuary, and monsters are beautiful, and fear of death is replaced with wonder. This darkness is just what you need in a stunt performer. When you see a zombie, I think part of you should want to cry a little. Also, on a personal note, I am always reading. Horror mostly, because it’s the sweetest. My mind is always weaving its way through emotions and ideas, so I constantly have an audiobook and a paperback working alongside me to guide my imagination. So if you picture all stuntmen as illiterate car-skidding gym rats, then you’re not far off. But I’m lifting to the beat of Bukowski and skidding to the sound of Stephen King.
Do you have any memories from childhood that you can share with us?
My favorite childhood memory is performing in the Joffrey Ballet’s Nutcracker when I was nine, at The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Downtown. Performance energy is the elixir of life. Once you’ve seen fifty people scramble to their places onstage, you know. You can see both what they’re doing and why they do it. And you’re a part of it, too. It moves around you and carries you like a wave, swelling as the orchestra resonates on the A before the overture. It’s the forest and the trees. It’s the bug.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.ariloeb.com
- Instagram: @ari_loeb
- Twitter: @ari_loeb
- Other: https://www.amazon.com/Thunder-AZ-Ari-Loeb/dp/1736993933/
Photo credit Chris Hall, Maxx Reed, Ari Loeb