Evolving from dancer’s dancer to dancer’s choreographer

Cerrudo in rehearsal with Hubbard Street dancers at Chicago Symphony Center

Alejandro Cerrudo scares himself on nearly a daily basis—and he has no intention of stopping. As the resident choreographer of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (where he also dances), and with a growing list of commissions from other companies, Cerrudo reinvents himself with each new piece he creates: “I always try to start every work differently, because I want to learn,” he says. “But I get really nervous. It’s that feeling of, ‘Oh, my god, I have to create something from nothing!’”

His recent premiere for Pacific Northwest Ballet—funded by the $25,000 Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance commissioning grant—was the latest exercise in forcing himself outside his comfort zone. Cerrudo generally prefers that a company first perform one of his existing works before they tackle a premiere, and he’s less familiar with creating choreography for ballet dancers than he is for contemporary dancers—making the PNB venture a double whammy. But in spite of these challenges, his focus never wavered. “I don’t change the way I treat ballet dancers, as opposed to contemporary dancers,” he says. “For me, they’re just dancers, and I’m going to try my best to get the best out of them.”

How he works: “I never come to the studio with choreography already set. I’ve learned that what I’m interested in working with is in front of my eyes, not what’s in the back of my head.”

His musical influence: “You won’t see a piece where the music is wallpaper and I just put the movement in front of it. One thing I do try to avoid is saying something the music already says. Music might not dictate the piece itself, but it will dictate how I react to the work as a whole.”

Why choreographing scares him: “I remember the first time I saw my choreography while sitting in an audience. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. And I had nothing else to do but watch. The audience isn’t even seeing your face. But you’re showing a really intimate part of yourself.”

Looking forward: “I’ve never done a storytelling ballet. And I enjoy making duets, but I want to explore choreography for many people. I want to do something that’s not really me at all. Sometimes, I start a piece, thinking: ‘OK, I’m going to do a piece. No one will be able to tell it’s mine.’ But it’s really hard.” DT

 

Training: Real Conservatorio Profesional de Danza

in Madrid

Performance: Victor Ullate Ballet; Stuttgart Ballet; Nederlands Dans Theater 2; Hubbard Street Dance Chicago since 2005

Choreography: resident choreographer of HSDC since 2009; works have been commissioned by Hubbard Street 2, Wendy Whelan, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Ballet Arizona and more

Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

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