!CUBA AQUI! Pedro Ruiz' Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey "A Passionate CELEBRATION of Cuban Dance Heritage" at Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College
An Evening of Dance in Photos
On March 13, 2019, Pedro Ruiz' Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey distinguished itself in New York City with a joyous performance bathed in Caribbean tones of green with flashes of amber-and-gold. Each of the ballets featured open, extended arms, soaring leaps and electrifying personality.
Ruiz, the quintessential Cuban American ambassador for dance, has made it his mission to set the world alight with a passionate combination of contemporary ballet, Afro-Cuban rhythms, and Cuban heritage.
For this artist, faith melds into dance. “As dancers we are always looking to the horizon, imagining what is on the other side, expanding our wings.” Lately he has been crisscrossing the Atlantic for an artist-residency at CUNY Hunter College while also directing his Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey in Cuba.
The Dance Enthusiast’s photo essay on !CUBA AQUI! highlights Ruiz' artistic work and the cultural dance exchange hosted by CUNY Hunter College and Ruiz’s The Windows Project, in partnership with the Arnhold Graduate Dance Education Program. - Serena S.Y. Hsu
The Ballets of Pedro Ruiz' Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey
GUAJIRA choreographed and staged by Pedro Ruiz ; Music by Los Activos, Grupo Céspedes, José María Vitier; Lighting design by Jeff Segal (recreated by Milton Ramos); Costume design by Ann Hould Ward
The first ballet, GUAJIRA, was inspired by Ruiz’ childhood memories of Cuban peasants - the long working days, their celebrations - and the Cuban spirit of playful resourcefulness.
GUAJIRA celebrated the 20th anniversary of its world premiere (1999) at the Joyce Theater, where it was originally performed by Ballet Hispánico. "GUAJIRA was the first ballet I ever choreographed," says Ruiz.
The word “Guajira” refers to both a “peasant girl” and the popular Cuban folk music genre based on a Spanish 10-line poem and poetic improvisation. The folk music is reflected in the ballet's energetic syncopations.
" My grandmother used to have a beautiful garden filled white daisies. This was my childhood secret hiding place," Ruiz remembers.
"I'd gather the daisies and by turning them upside down and twirling them, they looked like ballerinas with tutus. I'd line up my toy soldiers and arrange them to dance with the flowers. Even as a little boy, I was always thinking in images. I think this was really the origin of my choreography."
MÁS ALLÁ DEL MAR choreographed and staged by Pedro Ruiz; Traditional Sardinian folk songs sung by Elena Ledda; Lighting design by Milton Ramos; Costume design by Pedro Ruiz
Ruiz explained how his second ballet, the world premiere MAS ALLA DEL MAR, evokes similarities between the island of Sardinia, which was once ruled by the Catalans of Spain, and Cuba, with its Spanish traditions.
Says Ruiz, "Cuba and Sardinia have the beauty of the ocean that surrounds them. The ocean is the place for memories: my childhood vacations, my years as a young ballet student at the Cuban National Ballet, close to the famous Malecon ocean avenue, and dancing with my former Ballet Hispánico partner (Alessandra Corona) at Sardinian festivals."
"As a dancer, and choreographer, I love partnering and pas de deux. Pas de deux, and trios, have the deepest potential for completely different moods and nuance. Like the sea, they encircle."
PASEANDO MI ALMA choreographed and staged by Pedro Ruiz; Music by Grammy Award-winner Dafnis Prieto; Lighting design by Milton Ramos; Costume design by Pedro Ruiz
Ruiz’ close friendship with 2019 Grammy Award-winner Dafnis Prieto, inspired a creative collaboration for the world premeire of the ballet, PASEANDO MI ALMA (Taking My Soul for a Walk). Ruiz and Prieto both grew up in Santa Clara, in Cuba.
In PASEANDO MI ALMA, Ruiz intended to reflect contemporary Cuba – the energy, passion and sensuality of urban life with all of its possibilities – the emergence and divergence of cultures, rhythms, and music.
"All my pieces are based on classical ballet and contemporary dance in a very organic way. " Says Ruiz. " The movement seems always spontaneous."
Suichien Avila. Below l-r: Marco Delgado, Fernando Garcia Lezcano. Photo: Serena S.Y. Hsu |ZUMA Press
From l-r: Suichien Avila, Fernando Garcia Lezcano, Marco Delgado. Photo: Serena S.Y. Hsu |ZUMA Press
By bringing his Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey to New York City, Ruiz' journey has come full circle - from dancer, to choreographer in New York, to an artistic director of dance in Cuba, to artistic ambassador for Cuba in NY.
His dancers, most of whom grew up, like Ruiz, in poor farming communities, have been exposed to new ideas about dance and life on this journey. As Jesus Arias Pages, one of Ruiz’s dancers explained, “I was just a country boy with big dreams…Every day after school I helped my father work the land and fish to survive. Now I am a principal dancer in a company that has given me the chance to see the world."
is a celebrated choreographer and dancer, born and trained in Cuba, who emigrated to the U.S. in 1984 and became an American citizen. During his 21-year career with Ballet Hispanico as principal dancer, Ruiz choreographed three critically acclaimed ballets, including CLUB HAVANA, Ballet Hispanico's signature work. In February 2010, Mr. Ruiz created The Windows Project, celebrating the art of dance as a cultural bridge between the U.S. and Cuba. After 30 years Ruiz returned to his native land and would subsequently create three works for three Cuban Dance companies - HORIZONTE (2011) for Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, EL CAMINO for Danza del Alma, and MOVEMENTS IN THE WIND (2013) for Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey. Since 2015, he has served as artistic director for Ballet Contemporaneo de Camaguey.