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By Hedy Weiss
When describing the way Alejandro Cerrudo moves onstage, “loose” is the operative word. He’s like a silky paintbrush that has been dipped in black ink and then swept, free-form, across a white page.
This has something to do with the dancer’s physique, of course—his lanky, boyish body with its long, lean torso and slender arms and legs. And then there’s that shock of dark, gently curly hair that frames his face.
But more crucially, Cerrudo’s style is a matter of temperament and musicality. There is a kind of unforced, alert, yet slinkily relaxed energy about him. He brings an almost improvisatory quality to even the most difficult choreography in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s repertoire, which includes works by Jirí Kylián, Nacho Duato, Ohad Naharin, and Hubbard Street’s artistic director Jim Vincent. And this lovely looseness carries over to Cerrudo’s own work as a choreographer—an area of endeavor in which he also has begun to enjoy success.
“Alejandro has such a combination of casual grace and relaxed attack,” says Vincent, who invited Cerrudo to join Hubbard Street in 2005. “He has the ability to move precisely and with great speed, yet without any visible tension.”
Chat with Cerrudo and he reveals one secret of his style without even realizing he has done so. “I hate counting,” says the 27-year-old who was born and bred in Madrid, Spain. “I’ll only do it if I absolutely have to—when the music is just too difficult. I don’t count when I choreograph, either. It might take the dancers longer to get things because of this, but it’s just more natural for my body.”
As for how Cerrudo began dancing, blame it on his older sister. “She came home from ballet classes at the Real Conservatorio Dance in Madrid and got all the attention because she told everybody about her day there,” he recalls. “I got jealous, so I just said I wanted to try too.”
He enrolled in the school, where his main ballet teacher was Virginia Valero. “The first three years I was just too young to really understand what it was all about,” Cerrudo says. “Yet I kept going. And gradually I began to like it more and more, and to see what being in the world of ballet really takes. Just having joy in movement is not the same as dancing professionally.”
In 1998, after graduating from the conservatory, Cerrudo joined Madrid’s Ballet Victor Ullate for a year. “It was a very good place for a young dancer to start out, to learn how a company works,” he says. He learned even more during his years with the Stuttgart Ballet, from 1999 to 2002. It also was there that his gift for choreography surfaced. In fact, after showcasing his first piece, he was invited to create a solo for a male dancer to be performed at a gala. The resulting work, Recuerdos, became part of the company’s repertoire.
From Stuttgart it was on to Nederlands Dans Theater II where Cerrudo performed works by Kylián, Naharin, Hans van Manen, Johan Inger, Ayman Harper, and others. “This was a big transition, because I was moving from classical ballet to more contemporary dance, and the companies were so different,” says Cerrudo. “The opportunity to work with Jirí Kylián was incredible.”
He sees Kylián’s influence in his own work. “You try not to be overly influenced, but at the same time to avoid acting in reaction to what you’ve seen, so it is tricky. I’ve learned so much from dancing the works of people like Kylián and Naharin. At NDT II, Kylián set Sleepless on me and five other dancers, and it was an overwhelming experience. Just listening to him talk and observing how he treated people in the studio—it was inspiring for my life as a dancer, a choreographer, a person.”
As for what he still dreams of dancing, “it would be something by Mats Ek because he really has created his own vocabulary of movement.”
Cerrudo came to Hubbard Street by way of a gala in Houston, where NDT II was on the bill with the company. “I thought they looked very good, so when my two years at NDT II were up, I asked for an audition,” he says. “I wanted to work in the U.S.”
Quick to list his weaknesses as a dancer, Cerrudo notes, “I’m not very flexible—just enough to pass. And there are moments every day when I say, ‘Oh my God, I’m not doing this easily enough,’ or I just can’t get the right dynamic in that passage.”
Cerrudo plans to continue dancing with Hubbard Street for the foreseeable future. But with his beguiling Lickety-Split (set to the music of quirky Bay Area songwriter Devendra Banhart) already a hit in Hubbard Street’s rep, a fellowship to the New York Choreographic Institute coming up in 2008, and a specially commissioned second piece for Hubbard Street debuting in spring 2008, his choreographic calendar is filling up. The pressures of dancing and dance-making may well put Cerrudo’s trademark looseness to the test.
Hedy Weiss writes on dance for The Chicago Sun-Times.