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Dance Tue Jan 20 2015

Crafting "Restless Creature": Hubbard Street Choreographer Cerrudo Discusses Wendy Whelan

By Cora Vasseur

Whelan Cerrudo restless creature
Photo by Christopher Duggan.

Creating a pas de deux is challenging enough, but putting one together for Wendy Whelan after she retired from her 30-year career with the New York City Ballet is mind-numbing. Alejandro Cerrudo, resident choreographer of Hubbard Street Dance Company, is one of four choreographers she asked to create and perform with her in "Restless Creature," one of the first projects in her new dance career. The Chicago debut of "Restless Creature" will be Wednesday at the Harris Theater.

How someone discusses working with a major figure in their field shows how much they grasp the significance of the occasion. If Baryshnikov is Zeus, Whelan is Athena. It's a big deal that this archetype of a contemporary ballerina chose the Spanish Cerrudo to help her craft this project. And he's aware of that fact.

"She's coming from an amazing career," he said during our phone interview. "It was humbling to be with her."

Cerrudo met Whelan for the first time when they rehearsed together. He wasn't sure what she wanted. He didn't have a specific concept in mind, but they went into a five-hour rehearsal. They "played" and found what felt natural for both of them.

Cerrudo explained he didn't choreograph for her existing style because "Restless Creature" is an extension of her career. She's working with four choreographers with four different styles. She gets to be four characters and delve into the unique partnerships.

Another twist was that Cerrudo doesn't usually choreograph for himself. He did when he first started dancing, but does not do so much any more.

"It's a different process," he explained.

His favorite part of the piece is getting to dance with Whelan. He never thought he'd dance with her. After saying she was a star, he emphasized how helpful and optimistic she was in the studio.

Whelan and Cerrudo also share a love of the Harris Theater stage.

"I actually had the Harris Theater in mind while I was developing my project. I sort of tailor-made the work for this kind of theater," Whelan said in her press release.

"I perform there so much it's like home," Cerrudo said. "You can do anything there. I'm extremely happy the Harris is doing this." Cerrudo said the Harris is the stage for everything he creates.

"Any work, any company," he said. "I always have it in my mind." He couldn't elaborate, but he suggested that the theater's contemporary design plays a big part in Wednesday's performance.

Chicago has a lot to be proud of. When considering this new facet of her career, Whelan, the world famous dancer, thought of the Harris Theater. When selecting who would help her grow as an artist, lead her through this new world of dance, she chose the resident choreographer of Hubbard Street Dance, a Chicago powerhouse known for its cutting-edge beauty in motion. Cerrudo, hand-picked by Whelan, shows the caliber of his works and says something about Chicago dance.

Whelan and Cerrudo perform in "Restless Creature" at 7:30pm Wednesday, Jan. 21, at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St. The performance is sold out, but a few tickets may be available the day of performance. For information, call the box office at 312-334-7777.

Cora Vasseur is a freelance writer specializing in arts and culture. Her work has been featured in Halfstack Magazine, Tea Magazine, and Fresh Cup.

 
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Louis Vasseur / January 20, 2015 6:32 PM

What a blessing Hubbard Street Dance Company has been for Chicago. From Lou Conte's creative jazz/ballet/tap choreography when the company started over 30 years ago to attracting world class dancers to the City today, Hubbard Street Dance has served the City well. Whelan and Cerrado are the latest chapter in their amazing story.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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