Q&A with Pedro Ruiz, Faculty for Upcoming DEL Course: Guajira
We sat down with Pedro Ruiz to discuss his work, Guajira, and his upcoming DEL course!
Pedro Ruiz is a renowned choreographer and former principal dancer of Ballet Hispánico. His work Guajira (1999) explores his childhood growing up in Cuba and is a tribute to the hardworking women of Cuba’s countryside.
In his upcoming course with DEL, Ruiz will share his dance history and teach different sections of the piece, including Cuban and Yoruba folkloric dance forms and modern dance sections.
We had an inspiring conversation with Ruiz about Guajira and its educational importance for K-5 students, and we’re excited to share his insight with you!
Q: Why should dancers or dance educators take this course?
Dancers and dance educators should take this course to explore and experience the development of technique, movement vocabulary, choreographic approach, and aesthetic of the work.
They will also benefit from physically exploring and understanding what culture is through dance, by learning Cuban dances and examining the influences of Cuban culture in Spanish, West African, and Indigenous cultures.
Participants will be able to perceive, perform, and respond to dance, and gain an understanding of dance as an essential aspect of history and human experience—something they can bring to their classrooms.
Q: Guajira is a very personal work. Can you tell us more about why you chose to explore your childhood through these folkloric dance forms?
The idea for this dance piece is based on my memories from when I was a child in Cuba—in Santa Clara—where my paternal grandfather’s family came from.
At a very young age, my grandfather taught me to love the land of the countryside and what it represented to the Guajiro, the people who live off of the earth.
The Guajiro cultivate the land, planting and harvesting, and what joy and wealth they have comes directly from the earth. The relationship these people have to the earth becomes a part of their souls and identities. This part of my heritage is important to me to express. As a dancer, what better way to honor my heritage than to choreograph a dance in tribute to my ancestors and my own people.
In Cuba, school children are sent to the countryside to work the land for 45 days per year. For five years, beginning at age 11, I worked on plantations each year for a month and a half. The tales my grandfather shared with me became my own experience, as I planted tobacco, sugar, and tomatoes. I became a Guajiro myself.
Q: Why do you feel this is an important lesson for K-5 students?
At an early age, I was influenced by a dance teacher who decided to teach us popular and folkloric Cuban dances. That is the foundation of who I am now.
Guajira explores the life of the people who live in the countryside, and everybody can relate to this. To explore life in the countryside—all the different work growing and farming…
Students can make imaginative connections by exploring and inventing “growing and planting movements” to create an original class dance inspired by Guajira.
Q: Do you consider yourself a dancer, choreographer, dance educator, or all three?
Definitely for me, the three are a complete connection.