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Alejandro Cerrudo sheds light on Chagall’s “Windows” with Hubbard Street premiere

Alejandro Cerrudo (left) works rehearsal with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. | Todd Rosenberg Photography

Alejandro Cerrudo (left) works in rehearsal with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. | Todd Rosenberg Photography

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When: Thursday through Oct. 21

Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph

Tickets: $25-$99

Info: (312) 850-9744;

Updated: November 15, 2012 6:08AM

As he began thinking about how best to celebrate his company’s 35th birthday, Glenn Edgerton, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s artistic director, asked this question: What was happening in the cultural life of Chicago in 1977, the same year that Lou Conte founded the company?

As it happened, the Russian-born, Paris-based artist Marc Chagall was creating the six-panel “America Windows,” in honor of this country’s bicentennial — a work he dedicated to Mayor Richard J. Daley for his support of public art. As it happens, Hubbard Street has developed a close partnership with the Art Institute of Chicago, often dancing in its galleries and lobby spaces.

So Edgerton turned to Alejandro Cerrudo, the Spanish-bred dancer who, since 2009, also has served as resident choreographer, earning an international reputation along the way. He proposed the creation of an evening-length work that would use “America Windows” as a jumping-off point, and combine the talents of both the main company and Hubbard Street 2. The result is “One Thousand Pieces.”

“My work will not be a literal interpretation of the windows and their tribute to the arts and freedom,” said a clearly exhausted Cerrudo. “I was inspired by the magical atmosphere the windows create — the light and color of them. I have the picture of the windows in my head, with my memory as the filter, and that’s what allows me to create something abstract.”

Of course Cerrudo, who has created seven pieces for the company, and is deeply enmeshed in everything it does, has his own distinctive choreographic language. Fluid, sensual, full of quirky gestures and a playful absurdity and mystery, it is an ideal complement to Chagall’s dreamy world view.

For music, Cerrudo turned to the work of Philip Glass, whose 75th birthday just happens to be this year, too.

“I know many, many choreographers have used Glass’ music, but he is a master of our time, and I think I have something else to say with it. His work seemed perfect to transmit the atmosphere of the windows.”

Although Cerrudo usually creates the visual design for his pieces, this time he turned to Thomas Mika, who is simultaneously working on ballets in Mannheim, Germany, and Budapest.

“I took all my inspiration from one sentence of Chagall,” said Mika. “He said ‘something mystical passes through the windows.’ He saw the windows as a separation of two light spaces — the outside light as physical light; the inside light as the intellectual light. And using that idea I created for Alejandro a space which allows his choreography to pass through walls. I like to see the dance as light rays. And I tried to isolate a fragment of a room to expose figures. I think Chagall’s idea of light transporting color and emotion in a room is brilliant.”

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