Nov. 15: Cuban-American choreographer Pedro Ruiz

Renowned Cuban-American choreographer Pedro Ruiz is set to appear at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, November 15, 2012, as the Mason Gross Dance Department and the Rutgers Center For Digital Filmmaking host a question-and-answer session with the Bessie Award-winning artist and screen a documentary film about Ruiz’s return to his native Cuba. The free event, also featuring documentary film director Julie Cohen, takes place at Schare Recital Hall on the Douglass Campus.

The evening kicks off with the hour-long documentary Pedro Ruiz: Coming Home. In the film, Ruiz, a former principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico (he has choreographed works for the Joffrey Ballet and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well), reunites with friends and family he hasn’t seen in nearly three decades. Ruiz also collaborates with the modern dance company Danza Contemporanea de Cuba to choreograph a piece about Cuba. The cultural exchange was made possible by special permission from the U.S. and Cuban governments and represents the first time a work by a Cuban-American choreographer has been performed by a Cuban dance company.

Julia Ritter, Chair of the Dance Department, says international collaborations are essential to the department’s mission. She says it is critical that students and those in communities surrounding Rutgers begin to regard dance as “a global human phenomenon.” Ritter has established international partnerships and study abroad programs in Israel, England, Turkey, Taiwan and Ghana.

The exchange is practical, as well.

 “The Department feels it is important for its graduates to understand themselves as global citizens within a large world of dance practices, scholarship and artistry,” Ritter says. “The department has focused on internationalizing its programs, initiatives and curricula in order to better position its graduates for entry into various strata of the professional dance field in the 21st century, including performance, scholarship and creative practice.”

Ritter says she hopes to collaborate with the Rutgers Center For Digital Filmmaking to establish a series of dance films on campus. Dena Seidel, director of the Rutgers Center For Digital Filmmaking, agrees.

“The dynamism of dance expression is ideal for the screen,” Seidel says. “We are excited about hosting a dance documentary because film is intrinsically interdisciplinary and dependent on collaboration across artistic platforms.”

Ritter and Barbara Bashaw, director of the Dance Education program, say they hope to work with Ruiz to foster student exchanges to Cuba, which boasts a comprehensive dance education system in K-12.

“Pedro Ruiz is at the epicenter of this history as a native of Cuba whose generation was the first to benefit from early opportunities to engage in a culture defined through dance,” Bashaw says.

Schare Recital Hall is in the Marryott Music Building, 81 George Street at Route 18 on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University, in New Brunswick. No tickets required.

Media inquiries: Laurie Granieri, 848-932-5239

Posted October 2012