Credit: Jim Newberry

Alejandro Cerrudo, 32, performs with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and became its first resident choreographer in 2009. His most recent work was One Thousand Pieces, an evening-length dance—HSDC’s first—as mystical as its source: Chagall’s America Windows at the Art Institute of Chicago.Laura Molzahn

I first studied when I was about eight or nine [in Madrid]. I didn’t care so much for dance, actually. I was too young to appreciate it. It was after the first three years that I started to get passionate about it.

I don’t think I was more physical than any other kid. But my attention was always to what other kids would not even care about. I had that thing in me: I had to be the different one. If the other kids were doing soccer, I had to do dance.

I don’t consider myself a great dancer, I really don’t. I have fun when I can express something, theatrically speaking. I like partnering maybe more than I like dancing alone. You have to speak with your partner without words, and that’s very unique and very beautiful. It can be difficult. It’s like relationships—you can be compatible or not. Hopefully you get to a point where that doesn’t matter anymore. So even if I didn’t like the way you work or you didn’t fit to me so well, we understand and enjoy each other.

I came to the States to join Hubbard Street at 25. I didn’t plan to be here for seven years, but I love this place—Hubbard Street, but I love Chicago too, even the nasty winters. I love the different neighborhoods. Chicago has a . . . not “bohemian,” but it has . . . character, a strong personality—maybe because of the architecture, the el, the music.

It might sound overpretentious, but I value my taste first. I cannot live or work trying to please everybody. I need to have a certain level of happiness with what I’m doing to expect others to like it. Any type of art, I like to go, “Oh! Something I did not expect.” I mean, of course it has to be good!

There has never been a concept in my head that ends up exactly the way I envision it. There’s always something that is more challenging than you thought, technically speaking. I don’t want to sound like I’m bitching—it’s just the way it works. There are production issues, and sometimes money. And certain theaters don’t let you do certain things.

As a choreographer, to get to the moon, you should aim for the stars. You have to think as big as you can. I don’t want to have this great idea, and then run away five minutes later, saying to myself, “They’re not going to let me do that.” I want to go, “Oh, this is going to happen!” Dance is a much deeper and more versatile art when you introduce anything that makes sense to you. A lot of [choreographers] do film, and sometimes I get jealous of how many things you can do in film that you cannot do onstage. I love that challenge, of how I can get that feel in dance.

The audience only sees the final product, but it’s a lot of work. Even the simplest thing onstage can be hours and hours of trying to figure out how to make that simple thing look simple. I’ve choreographed sections that I had to throw away because they didn’t make sense, visually or in the flow. Like, I love this section, but it’s not working with the rest. And some sections maybe I’m not so happy with, but they’re perfect for the transition. Or sometimes you need to make a section that is kind of annoying, but then the next one is supposed to go like [big breath out]—and it’s even more [big breath out] because you were [holds breath]. I make you uncomfortable so the contrast is greater.

Also, you get to a stage where you realize that maybe you would have done things differently, but there’s no more time . . . even with costumes, or set. You try your best, you put in your heart, you put in your thoughts, you put in time, and you plan. But you’re only going to really see what you’ve done when it’s too late to change most of it. We’re not perfect.

Dave Cerda, the performer

Index: 2012 People Issue

Dave Matta, the educator