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REHEARSING THE DANCERS

RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ (front L) during a  rehearsal         Photo by: Iride Aparicio
 RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ (front L) during a  rehearsal         Photo by: Iride Aparicio

RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ
Associated Artistic Director of BSJ

Talks with Iride Aparicio

SAN JOSÉ, CA – Dancing as a profession is an art. The art of movement. Unlike the actors who use words to convey their art, dancers are silent. The music is their voice. To interpret it, they must first absorb  it, and use their bodies: their arms, their hands, their fingers, their legs and feet and their facial expressions to convey its meaning to the audience.

When we observe professional classic dancers, gliding, jumping or pirouetting on the stage, dancing looks easy. Nothing is further from the truth. To dance is hard physical work, and it requires discipline. To be able to move gracefully, one has to teach his or her muscles to move gracefully by exercising them for hours every day. Often, those muscles resent the exercise, and when this happens, they ache.   

Before a ballerina learns to stand on the tips of  her toes (pointe) she must spend years learning to train her toes to carry the weight of her body. To be proficient, she also needs to learn  the leg and foot refinement of stepping to point, and coming off, called the roll-up relevé and the roll-down from Pointe. Wearing her “Pointe Shoes”, she must learn to do  everything: walk, run, jump, turn and  even execute Grand plies and  Grand Adagious, standing in one foot.

On his part, the male dancer need  strength in both their  legs and arms to be able  to jump high, spin fast and be able to  lift the ballerinas. They also must learn to catch them, when they jump into their arms, and when performing a “Fish” together, how to hold  them gracefully, upside down.

And being an “art”  when a dancer moves, each gesture  must have a meaning, because to dance, is to expose in movement, the feelings in their hearts.

RAYMOND RODRIGUES  photo courtesy BSJ
RAYMOND RODRIGUES  photo courtesy BSJ


As a professional dancer, RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ  danced  for many years around the world. In l981, he joined the Cleveland Ballet (Now Ballet San José) and came the city as “a principal dancer”. He works now as the Associate Artistic Director of Ballet San José.

Prior to BSJ’s  second program: POPULAR MUSIC, TRANSCENDENT DANCING, which will include:  The Company’s premiere of Nuestros Valses (l976) Grapa Tango, (2007). The Company’s premieres of Infinity (2013) and  Evermore (2013) and Piazzola Caldera (l997) which will be performed on March 21,22,and 23 at the San José Center for the Perfoming Arts, Mr. RODRIGUEZ  invited CULTURAL WORLD BILINGUAL to watch in BSJ's studio, the rehearsal of one of those dances.

To see a group of  professional dancers rehearsing is interesting. They are already professional,  so their “couching” consists in small details such as: position the left arms a little higher for effect. Do the same movement with more grace, or  dance it, with more feeling.  Acting as their couch, Mr.  RODRIGUEZ  observed them carefully and when something needed to be corrected, he demonstrated how to do it.

Director RODRIGUEZ (standing) observing  a dancer do a step
Director RODRIGUEZ (standing) observing  a dancer do a step


During a short interview following his rehearsal, we asked  Mr. RODRIGUEZ to tell us something aboust the dance  that we saw him rehearsing with the dancers.
 
R.R.  “We were rehearsing PAUL TAYLOR’s  “Piazzolla Caldera,” composed by Astor Piazzolla and choreographed by Paul Taylor. It will be the first Paul Taylor work that we have in our repertoire. The dancers learned it in September when  RICHARD  CHEN SEE, who is the “Repetiteur” from the Paul Taylor’s Trust came to teach the  (BSJ) dancers the choreography. After he left, it was my responsibility to keep the ballet  rehearsed, and be sure that the dancers remembered all the choreography since September. It was difficult, because since then we have danced other programs:  the  “Gala,”The Nutcracker,” and  all the dances from our previous program in February, so it had been a challenge to keep the ballet fresh and to remember it, but we are there, so RICHARD CHEN SEE will be back next week  to “couch”  them a little bit more.”

“ We have two different casts performing it. This is the second cast that you saw rehearsing it.  As you probably noticed, the Ladies are in “character shoes” (in this case, shoes with heels) and the music is from PIAZZOLLA (1921-1992) (A Tango composer, Bandoleón Player and arranger from Buenos Aires, Argentina who revolutionized el tango into a new style of music which he called “Nuevo Tango.” New tango.)

In this ballet, we made a story of a “Night in Buenos Aires,” where people are out dancing. The two gentlemen that you saw doing a duet. “Piazzolla Caldera,” (See the photo  below courtesy of BSJ)  represent to be "borrachos" (dunk) they have too much to drink and had a fight.  In the dance,  you see them fighting and falling into each other, but it is all controlled.  Both dancers have to keep their ballet technique to be able to do other forms of dance. It is very important for the “line” of the dance, and its attitude. So whether they are in “character shoes” or in ballet shoes, the dancers have to follow these movements."

C.W.B. With all these dances,  the Company performed, how can you remember the choreography of every one of them?

R.R: "Honestly, I don’t remember all of them.  I piece them together  in video-tapes so we have them as a reference. On the videos, however, some times the dances are wrong,  they don’t go with the music. Also, when it was first learned, the dance could have been  incorrect, because the intention or the  inflection does not come out in the video, so it is my job to get those dancers  learning it according to what RICHARD (the répétiteur) was saying that was the intent of the set, so I have to pull it out of the dancers, beside the choreography and the sets, to get the feeling of drunkenness,  of sexy, correct the movements of the men or women. All  this comes with “couching.”  

C.W.B.  That must be a difficult work. 

R.R. “It is, and besides teaching choreography, I also need to couch the dances on the side to put the “feeling” in the choreography, because without the "feeling" the sets are boring, the dances do not mean anything. While “couching” I tried to pull that artistry out of the dancers. Help them with the phrasing of the music, which will help the artistry. The Music, without the proper phrasing becomes dry. The dancers have to move with the music.” 

Dress rehearsal photo courtesy of BSJ
Dress rehearsal photo courtesy of BSJ

C.W.B. How do you  feel as Associate Artistic Director of BSJ?

R.R.  “I am happy in my position. I think I have risen to the occasion,  I have been with the organization for a very long time. I understand how the company works, from the time I learned as a student up until today. I don’t dance anymore, I danced “character” roles, but I have the education and the desire to pass along what I learned. As Associate Artistic Director I am now managing people,  I have to control forty dancers in the studio, doing day to day schedules on who is rehearsing what, when and where. I work together with José on casting, I have meetings with the Board for planning the season, I Get  licenses, bring in the stagers, hire new dancers or let go some dancers, I audition dancers and look at all the videos I get from dancers who want to join Ballet San José. I am also coordinating with the custom shop, to be sure that when the dancers get on stage they can move and don't rip their pants when they dance."

"You have a lot of responsibility." we tell him. He smiles. 

C.W.B. Do you have anything to add?

R.R.  “I would like to encourage people to come to see Ballet San José. We are doing an exciting new repertoire from choreographers from around the world that the Bay Area had never seen before, choreographers from Israel from Venezuela.  Our new program shows incredible work."

"I also hope that  you come to see us at the Center for the Performing Arts in May, when we have the ballet “Carmen” in the program and the Company’s  premier of In the Upper Room (l986) by TWYLA THARP.  Two completely different ballets, that show the versatility of our dancers who can go from contemporary to classical. So we hope you all come to see Ballet San José.”

Born in New York City, RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ  began  tap dancing at the age of six,  He attended the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, and  then the American Ballet Theatre (ABT) School on a full scholarship. He gained his performing experience dancing with ABT.
 
As a dancer, Mr. RODRIGUEZ has  performed all over the world and staged numerous ballets, around the world, for former BSJ Artistic Director Dennis Nahat. He had acted in films and TV. He has also performed, assisted  and remounted works by Fleming Flindt, most notably The Toreador where he performed the title role at his company premiere and staged the work for the 2008-2009 season, for which he won the Isidora Duncan Award.  

For more information about BSJ  visit www.balletsj.org

 

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