Michel Rodriguez

Hedwig Dances and "Vanishing Points"

Hedwig Dances "Dance of Forgotten Steps" Photo by Eileen Ryan Photography

Hedwig Dances' current presentation of "Vanishing Points", a full length program of four original choreographic works, is so imaginative and effective that you have a feeling of seeing something brand new, a Company full of innovation and forward-looking ideas. That's exactly what you're seeing, but you're also seeing a Company that is in its twenty-seventh successful year, so "Vanishing Points" is not only bright and surprising, it's also a carefully woven presentation of professionalism in every detail, and there are a lot of amazing details. Two of the four works feature original scores, and the evening includes unusually bold and effective set designs. Perhaps most surprising of all, even though the show is expansive and multi-faceted, it's actually only danced by six performers, but you're not even conscious of that unless you study the program.

Artistic Director Jan Bartoszek's "Dance of Forgotten Steps" opens the program in a sophisticated, successful integration of movement, music, set design and video. "It's Not About You", a new work by Cuban-born, Berlin-based choreographer Judith Sanchez Ruiz, is a focused, well-crafted duet, while Victor Alexander's "Line of Sighs" explores an intriguing interaction between another remarkably imaginative set design and three dancers. "Vanishing Points" closes with a new work by Michel Rodriguez (whose "Moi Aussi" was a finalist in the 2010 A.W.A.R.D. show), an intricate and driving ensemble piece entitled "Por Dentro".

"Vanishing Points" is a surprising experience in many, many ways. The original scores for "Dance of Forgotten Steps" (by Michael Caskey) and for "Line of Sighs" (by Arianna Brame and Petra Valoma) are musically and choreographically successful, the video in "Dance of Forgotten Steps" is so much a part of the movement it goes way beyond what the term "multi-media" usually suggests, and the performances by company members Victor Alexander, Michel Rodriguez, Maray Gutierrez, Edson Cabrera and Jessie Gutierrez, with Guest Artist Katie Graves, are consistently strong in four very different settings. "Vanishing Points" is at Theater 773 this Friday and Saturday (April 20-21) at 8PM and Sunday, April 22 at 3PM.

Michel Rodriguez' Choreographic Journey

Michel Rodriguez was one of three finalists at the 2010 A.W.A.R.D. show in Chicago, and his duet "Moi Aussi" is in performance again September 23 and 24 at The Other Dance festival. Rodriguez himself performs the duet with Jessie Gutierrez as part of the Hedwig Dances presentation, and the work's dramatic -- and athletic --- complexity suggests an already rich background of dance experience, even in the early stages of this choreographer's career. We asked Rodriguez about his days in the professional Dance community in Cuba. Here's some of what he told us about the experiences that inform his work:

"I started my professional career in 2003 after graduating from the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. Right away I was chosen to be a member of Danza Comtemporanea de Cuba, the largest dance company in the country, and became a principal dancer in 2006. There I worked with several European choreographers --- only European, because there was no way that an American choreographer would go to Cuba because of the political situation. The first European choreographer I worked with was Jan Linkens, from the Netherlands, who was working with the company for the second time. The production was “Compas” and it was a huge succes in Cuba. What surprised me the most from Jan was his musicallity, he’ll know the score of the music perfectly, like a musician, before starting to work on the movement. I also danced another work from him, “Folia”, a piece that marked a new era for the company, the opening to a more european style, but still keeping the Cuban essence.

The A.W.A.R.D. Show Finals: Joanna Rosenthal, Michel Rodriguez and Jacqueline Stewart

Choreography by Joanna Rosenthal (Photo by William Frederking)
Choreographer Michel Rodriguez and Jessie Gutierrez (Photo by Lindsay Schirk)
Grace Whitworh and Charlie Cutler in "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes"

"Grey Noise" by Joanna Rosenthal, "Moi Aussi" by Michel Rodriguez, and "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" by Jacqueline Stewart made for an outstanding final evening in the 2010 A.W.A.R.D. show in Chicago. The three works express the three distinctly different visions of Rosenthal, Rodriguez and Stewart and, as is fitting to the final evening in a prestigious competition, each of the works was carefully thought-out and executed at award show level. Jacqueline Stewart was awarded the 2010 prize for her intoxicating duet, presented in a stunning performance by Grace Whitworth and Charlie Cutler, on the basis of a decision by a panel of four judges: Lane Alexander, Homer Bryant, Roeli Schmidt and Linda Shelton. The final decision is actually determined by five votes, one by each judge, as well as one vote based the results of an anonymous ballot of audience members.

The A.W.A.R.D. Show tries to establish parameters for how to choose among the works presented, but it can never be easy to compare such richly different voices in any hierarchical way. Stewart's "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" is certainly a uniquely compelling vision, not only because of the imaginative way that a simple light on stage serves as a focus of the work, but even more so because of the effortless flow of movement ideas in an unspoken story. One of the real challenges of judging a competition though, is where to even find a basis for comparison, how to even begin to judge creative ideas. Is there really any way to compare the somber mysteries of "It's Not Enough To Close Your Eyes" to the expansive and bright "Moi Aussi"? Although also a duet, in Rodriguez' work Jessie Gutierrez and the choreographer perform a dynamic, intricately athletic drama, effortlessly commanding the full scope of a large stage. Joanna Rosenthal presents yet another challenge to a judge, and at The A.W.A.R.D. show that includes everyone in the audience, with an excerpt from her work "Grey Noise", in which a cast of five dancers develop a broadly-conceived architecture to some of the boldest soundtrack ideas that a choreographer could design.

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