Stu­dio ses­sion

Chore­og­ra­pher Ale­jan­dro Cer­rudo cre­ates a new work for Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let

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Mak­ing a bal­let to a sin­gle piece of mu­sic is so last cen­tury. Ale­jan­dro Cer­rudo chore­ographs playlist dances — he cre­ates sound col­lages that in­form the move­ment for him. “Then I go into the stu­dio and play with the dancers. I ask, ‘Where does the piece want to go?’ ” On the playlist for his latest work for Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let, pre­mier­ing at the Len­sic Per­form­ing Arts Cen­ter on Fri­day, July 10, are pieces by Dustin Ham­man, King Cre­osote, Ólöf Ar­nalds, and Nils Frahm. “I’d call the style of mu­sic rock, or al­ter­na­tive, or just mod­ern,” he said. Also on the pro­gram are dances by Jorma Elo and Cayetano Soto.

In res­i­dence for three weeks in June at ASFB’s stu­dios in Colorado, Cer­rudo was pick­ing up where he had left off in Novem­ber, when there had been a block of re­hearsal time with the com­pany, and he had de­vel­oped about three-quar­ters of a piece. But that was then. “I don’t re­mem­ber any­thing af­ter 30 sec­onds, and be­tween last Novem­ber and now I’ve been in­cred­i­bly busy.” Cer­rudo, orig­i­nally from Spain, has been res­i­dent chore­og­ra­pher for Hub­bard Street Dance Chicago for seven years, a group he pre­vi­ously danced with. He has cre­ated more than a dozen works for that com­pany. This is his sec­ond for Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let.

He was also a mem­ber of Stuttgart Bal­let and Ned­er­lands Dance Theater 2 and now cre­ates works with com­pa­nies around the world. How­ever, he feels his chore­o­graphic cen­ter is with Hub­bard Street, which, like Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let, fea­tures a reper­toire in a va­ri­ety of styles. “Clas­si­cal bal­let gives you knowl­edge about the body, it trains your mus­cles, it gives you dis­ci­pline and gives you rules. What’s fun, then, is to break them.”

Since Novem­ber, there have been changes of per­son­nel tak­ing place in ASFB. Cor­win Bar­nette, who the chore­og­ra­pher worked with last fall, is now a mem­ber of Les Grands Bal­let Cana­di­ens de Mon­tréal. Paul Busch and Peter Franc will per­form with ASFB through the sum­mer, and will leave soon af­ter — Busch to join Ber­lin State Bal­let and Franc, Ore­gon Bal­let Theatre. New to the com­pany are Jenelle Fig­gins, for­merly of Dance Theatre of Har­lem, Pete Leo Walker, from Char­lotte Bal­let, and An­thony Tiede­man, a re­cent Juil­liard grad­u­ate. The per­for­mances at the Len­sic will in­clude 14 dancers on stage, the most ASFB has ever had.

All of the new­bies were in res­i­dence in Aspen at a re­cent com­pany re­hearsal with Cer­rudo, and af­ter a week to­gether, they were still be­ing folded into

the piece. “I’m here to re­con­nect and to en­joy get­ting to know these dancers,” Cer­rudo said. “Re­gard­less of the suc­cess of this work, it’s im­por­tant to cul­ti­vate re­la­tion­ships and nour­ish the work be­tween a com­pany and a chore­og­ra­pher.” Fig­gins in­tro­duced her­self with a firm hand­shake and said she was very happy to be away from New York City. “If I want to get stressed out, I just call my sis­ter while she’s wait­ing for the sub­way dur­ing rush hour in the morn­ing.” Walker dances with a full-throt­tled mus­cu­lar­ity that com­ple­ments the kind of at­tack that com­pany mem­ber Joseph Wat­son is known for. Tiede­man, a tech­ni­cally flu­ent dancer, has al­ready been given solo ma­te­rial by Cer­rudo, which he seemed to master with the fa­cil­ity dancers from Juil­liard are trained to have.

Cer­rudo took things from the top, and the open­ing score of­fered sounds of low vol­ume, grunge-style guitar mu­sic with a tick-tock rhyth­mic per­cus­sion un­der­lay. Two men, and then four oth­ers, slowly en­tered to dance, much of the time down on the floor, in pat­terns that were or­derly, of­ten in uni­son, and with move­ment that was fluid and ath­letic — a blend of bal­let, yoga, break danc­ing, and bu­toh. Af­ter Cer­rudo paused to ask for a clar­i­fi­ca­tion from one of the new dancers, he wanted to know if any­one re­mem­bered the ex­act steps he’d pre­vi­ously come up with for that par­tic­u­lar mo­ment. Fig­gins raised her hand and demon­strated the miss­ing move­ment with a re­laxed artistry. “Can you learn that part? I want you to learn the whole thing,” he said to her. Sud­denly a woman was do­ing a man’s part in a man’s sec­tion. Things change and de­ci­sions hap­pen fast when a piece is be­ing cre­ated on the spot. “Take the time to make it huge,” he told another dancer. “Make it your step.”

In the next sec­tion, recorded voices speak­ing in Ca­jun di­alect cued the com­pany women to en­ter. The mu­sic that fol­lowed had New Agey pi­ano chords and a min­i­mal­ist sound pal­ette. By now, the new dance seemed to have pro­claimed it­self to be gen­tler than many of the other pieces in ASFB’s reper­toire. An ex­tended duet per­formed by ex­pe­ri­enced com­pany mem­bers Emily Proc­tor and Craig Black was lyri­cal with per­haps a sug­ges­tion of ro­mance and cer­tainly a sense of sweet­ness. The dancers stood for a few long mo­ments fac­ing each other — Black’s hands up in the air in front of him, Proc­tor sud­denly grasp­ing him by the wrists, hold­ing him as if there were some mes­sage for her touch to de­liver through his skin.

Later, as the mu­sic changed, lines of men be­gan rock­ing their arms and cross­ing the stage like car­toon char­ac­ters walk­ing in a hurry. Women trav­eled on their bel­lies un­du­lat­ing like earth­worms. Later, a line of women on their knees played a rhyth­mic game of ges­tures that had the speed and ex­per­tise of young girls in a play­ground, with their well-prac­ticed hand-clap games and jump-rope chants.

Cer­rudo still had a cou­ple of weeks of re­hearsal. “In terms of the time frame, I just keep work­ing. When I think I have a com­plete piece, I stop. At this point, I’m still fig­ur­ing things out. There are key sec­tions of the piece I still don’t know about. I have a good feel­ing about the piece over­all, though.”

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