“Whoaaa, my God!” Alejandro Cerrudo exclaims with relief. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s resident choreographer has just watched dancers Quinn Wharton and Jesse Bechard maneuver Alice Klock into the air. As they attempt the somewhat awkward lift, Klock nearly goes down. Her partners catch her.
Cerrudo looks around, then says, “Okay, let’s come back to that.” As the company takes a five-minute break, the 32-year-old dance maker talks with rehearsal director Terence Marling. Cerrudo, a tall, slim Spaniard wearing black athletic pants, a maroon shirt and wristbands (red on one wrist, black on the other), can’t seem to sit still. He’s on the cusp of Hubbard Street’s 35th-anniversary season, which opens with the fall series running Thursday 18 through Sunday 21 at the Harris Theater. To mark the occasion, Cerrudo will present One Thousand Pieces, his and the company’s first evening-length performance—a herculean effort for the choreographer, whose typically mesmerizing works have dealt with smaller casts and shorter lengths.
Five minutes have passed, but the dancers stay in their corners, not noticing the time. Cerrudo looks at the clock, then at Marling. “We’re back, right?” Music starts, positions align, and the cycle begins anew.
“When you do one 20-minute or 30-minute work, you know that there are going to be another two works, at least,” Cerrudo explains later. “You know that if your work sucks, you’re not responsible for the other two thirds of the evening. With this, I’m responsible for the whole evening.”
Inspired by Marc Chagall’s stained-glass work America Windows at the Art Institute, and set to music by Philip Glass, One Thousand Pieces incorporates every member of Hubbard’s main company and its second company. For the three-part evening, 24 dancers take the stage for an hour and 15 minutes.
While the dancers lunch in the kitchen on the first floor of the Hubbard Street studios, Cerrudo and I talk about the choreographic process as he munches on handfuls of potato chips and a salami sandwich. I mention I’d hoped to conduct our interview at the Art Institute or over a beer. “It would be nice,” Cerrudo says. “I just don’t have the time right now.” With only seven weeks to complete One Thousand Pieces, Cerrudo has had little time for much else. He discusses maintaining the audience’s interest. “I’m a person that gets bored super quickly,” he says. “In a way, that’s a good thing because that’s always in me: Okay, now you have to shift, do something else to keep the eye fresh.”
According to Cerrudo’s Facebook page, he’s a fan of tennis star and fellow Spaniard Rafael Nadal. When I bring this up, Cerrudo laughs. “Yes, yes I am. [The sweatbands] come a little bit from Rafa,” he says. “He’s amazing. His figure gives me courage to do what I do. Watching his matches, it’s not easy for him. It’s not easy to choreograph for me. Seeing him on the tennis court and fighting, it’s encouragement for me when I’m going through hard times.”
Despite his status as a rising international dance star, the choreographer acknowledges the talents of another Cerrudo: his identical-twin brother, Raul. “He’s an amazing dancer, but he was never classically trained,” Cerrudo says.
After our interview, Cerrudo quickly gathers his things. We head in opposite directions, then he turns around to catch me. He’s smiling.
“You should put the stuff about Rafa in the story,” he says. “It made me happy when you asked about that.”
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs One Thousand Pieces at the Harris Theater Thursday 18 through Sunday 21. See Listings.