Extremely Close Duet

Blog written by Alix McDonough

I had an opportunity to attend a rehearsal of Alejandro Cerrudo’s DUET from his ballet EXTREMELY CLOSE.

I’m sitting on a folding chair in a mirrored studio watching the performance of DUET right there in front of my eyes!  It’s a totally different experience seeing the dancers just a few feet in front of me rather than in a theater far from the stage.  I’m so close to the dancers that I feel as though I’m a part of the dance.  I worry that one of them might accidentally trip over my feet.

At the rehearsal, I’m introduced to Meredith Dincolo who is working with Alejandro to instruct the dancers in DUET.

Meredith trained exclusively in classical ballet and has performed professionally for various companies throughout the world.

She discovered contemporary dance when she attended a performance of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) and was fascinated.

In 1996 she was hired as a full time dancer with HSDC.  While there, Meredith danced DUET for Cerrudo in EXTREMELY CLOSE.

I’ve always thought contemporary dancers look like gymnasts, while classical dancers are more ethereal.  That’s not a bad thing.  I prefer contemporary dance.  That’s one reason I became involved with Chamber Dance Project.

I asked Meredith to compare the differences between classical and contemporary dance.  She told me that there are some elements of classical ballet in contemporary dance.  Typically, classical ballet has fixed movements and distinct gender-specific roles, while contemporary dance is more flexible, allowing more freedom and individuality.

After Dincolo retired, she become an instructor with HSDC.

My impression is that many retired dancers go on to become choreographers, yet Meredith chose teaching.  Why is that?  She told me that she feels her strength is in teaching.  That she can make a more significant contribution as an instructor than as a choreographer.

Dincolo likes to work with choreographers who have strong ideas.  Cerrudo has his own particular vision about how his work should be performed.  He requires that the dancers conform to his style.  He does not encourage innovation.

In the dance DUET, Dincolo works with Cerrudo to interpret his intentions and then trains the dancers to fulfill his objectives.  In this ballet, the “environment created with lighting and music and movement draws the observer in and evokes a moment suspended in time.”

And then there’s the kiss.  I’ve never seen a kiss that lasted so long, even between Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall.  Amazingly to me, the rhythm remains unbroken, the movements continue and all the while the kiss endures.

I can’t resist asking how romantic duets effect the relationships between dancers. I find DUET itself very intimate. Two dancers letting us observe their private bond.

Meredith explained that “One of the challenges for the dancers…….is to establish a solid and assured relationship that comes through in the choreography and how it is done.  The quieter moments when movement is minimal, can be the most difficult to keep honest and pure.”

“The sparseness of movement paired with the sparseness of the solo piano music present strong elements that often echo with both the audience and the dancers.”

The rehearsal is over and everybody leaves the studio.  I’ve only seen a part of the whole production.  There are no costumes, and the floor is bare. I can’t wait to see the entire performance of DUET with its moving panels and feathers on the stage.  Where the dancers “interact and ultimately retreat into the darkness upstage.”