Balancing a Vision: Hubbard Street’s Alejandro Cerrudo and <i>One Thousand Pieces</i>

By Johnny Nevin

Not long ago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presented the return of Alejandro Cerrudo’s full evening work One Thousand Pieces, premiered in 2012 for the company’s 35th anniversary. When the work was originally performed, the response to it from Hubbard Street’s audiences was even more enthusiastic than expected, and expectations were unquestionably high.
Hubbard Street dancers Jesse Bechard, left, and Meredith Dincolo in One Thousand Pieces by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo (photo by Todd Rosenberg)

It was a substantial undertaking by any measurement, probably least of all because of the scale of the work; more daunting perhaps was the fact that Hubbard Street’s stated intentions for the event were so ambitious in their scope. When the project was announced, the company described the idea as “inspired by Marc Chagall’s famed American Windows,” the six-panel stained glass work that Chagall had created 35 years earlier, the same year Hubbard Street Dance was founded. That left Cerrudo with the challenge of creating an important and large-scale work, and one that was to be inspired by another important and large-scale work by a major artist in a completely different medium. If it was a measure of Hubbard Street’s confidence in him that they would ask him to undertake such a widely visible challenge, an even more unusual metric of that confidence is the degree to which it was constantly reconfirmed by all of the individuals involved in the complexities of Cerrudo’s vision. “I’ve never been so supported,” Cerrudo says, describing his interactions with the many other people involved in the making of One Thousand Pieces. “If I had an issue, I could go to someone, and that person would do anything to make it work.”

He began where he almost always begins, with the music. “For a work inspired by the Chagall Windows, I thought that Philip Glass’ music was a perfect fit,” he says. “Because of the quality of his music, and of the glass and the colors, and because of the magic of the Windows and the magic of his music, as soon as I thought of the Windows I thought of Phillip Glass.” Cerrudo’s attention to the music he uses is always careful, and always very precise, because he simultaneously emphasizes the quality of movement that an individual section can inspire and the trajectory he will build from all of the sections he chooses. Usually, that makes choosing music one of the most difficult parts of the process for him. “Surprisingly, for a full-length evening, I knew what the music was very, very early,” he says, although exactly how to arrange what he had into an effective progression came a little more slowly. One Thousand Pieces is set to 14 different Glass compositions, but Cerrudo puts them together so seamlessly that it’s as if it were a single score composed for the work. “That was my goal,” he says, “that, but …read more

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