|A Good Second Wind: Domingo Rubio in Ballet Quad Cities’ "Coppélia," April 26 and 27|
|News/Features - Dance|
|Written by Mike Schulz|
|Wednesday, 23 April 2008 02:24|
Domingo Rubio, the Mexico City-based dancer currently performing with Ballet Quad Cities, is discussing his American breakthrough in 1999.
"I was with a Mexican company dancing in Los Angeles," he says, "and Gerald Arpino [artistic director of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet], he saw me dancing at my fullest. You know, I was doing big, big roles ... everything that you could do without fainting. And stuff choreographed by me - things that would suit myself. He saw those performances and wanted me for his company.
"So even though I was 33," he continues, "which is, you know, an age that you could quit, I started with Joffrey."
"It was like a good second wind," says Rubio. "I started late, and I've been catching up."
And how. In addition to four years spent with the esteemed Chicago company - where his performance in Vaslav Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun was described as "mesmerizing" and "marvelously intense" by the New York Times - the second half of Rubio's 20-year dance career has included engagements in Europe, a "permanent guest artist" tenure with the Sierra Nevada Ballet, and, this season, leading roles in Ballet Quad Cities' productions of Dracula, The Nutcracker, and the comedic Coppélia, being performed at Davenport's Adler Theatre April 26 and 27.
Rubio reveals, however, that while growing up in Mexico, he hadn't intended on pursuing a career in dance at all. His youthful interests were painting and the piano, and he initially planned on studying architecture in school - "something to fall back on," he says.
Yet Rubio's interest in the art was piqued while playing piano for local dance recitals and concerts, "and I started taking three to four classes a day," he says. "I thought, ‘Okay, I'm going to try for a year, and I'm going to try everything,' because I knew that it was going to be a short career, and I thought I could come back to the architecture career later on.
"And then I got caught up," he continues. "You fall in love with it, and it becomes some sort of a drug."
Crediting his passion for music for enhancing his passion for dance, Rubio says, "I've always felt lucky to have classical music, as a child, in my ears. All of this electronic music ... it's very interesting what they do today, but you don't get all those different textures and resonance and timbres that a full orchestra may have - those little things that create a certain musicality in dancing and movement. That music just lifts you there, and you could cry, you know? There's a joy that makes you dance."
Despite his late start at age 18, Rubio says that he began dancing professionally less than six months after taking his first classes, and admits that when auditioning for roles, "I was always lying about my training. You know, if I had six months, I would say, ‘Oh, I have two years of training ... .'"
The ruses worked; over the next decade, Rubio's success in Mexico led to engagements in Europe and New York, and eventually Los Angeles. "The whole dancer career has taken me to many places," he says, "and I never regretted not to go back ... to do stuff with rulers and all that. I was more interested in the free-style thing. It seemed like the right way to go."
While with the Joffrey Ballet - where Ballet Quad Cities' artistic director Steve Beirens also worked as a principal dancer - Rubio says, "They tried me in many, many different roles, and not all of them fit my qualities.
"But once they knew where to put me," he adds, citing roles in Afternoon of a Faun and the ballet version of Taming of the Shrew as particular highlights, "it was a very enjoyable time. I got to do many of the roles that even Nureyev got to do ... many treats that, for me, were amazing."
And Rubio also considers himself "very lucky" for his Joffrey tenure coinciding with the shooting of Robert Altman's 2003 film The Company, an ensemble piece set in the world of professional ballet, with the Joffrey dancers more or less playing themselves. (Rubio, who partners star Neve Campbell in the movie, is listed in the credits as "Domingo.")
"I couldn't ask for anything better," says Rubio of The Company's filming. "I mean, we were just thrilled." And while he adds that "I didn't get to dance that much in the movie," he's at least grateful that "most of my scenes didn't get cut out. Other dancers that had been with the Joffrey years and years, they didn't make it to the final cut."
Escalating back injuries forced him to leave the Joffrey in 2003, at which point Rubio began devoting more time to his successful side career as a sculptor; his works have been shown in galleries in Mexico and the United States, and he has created exhibits on "Dance in Biomechanics" for national science museums. (Samples of his works can be found at http://www.domingorubio.com).
Yet he also continued to choreograph and teach dance, and would occasionally return from his self-imposed retirement for guest performances. "For me, dance - it never ends," says Rubio. "You never stop learning. If you're able to dig a little bit inside yourself, and to think something through about yourself, and explore that, and discover that, it's like someone snapping some string inside of you. And once you do that, other people will connect with you.
"Of course," he continues, "you remember the dances where you [make] huge mistakes, because you have that rush of adrenalin, and whenever you have that rush of adrenalin, it stays imprinted in you. But you can also get that rush of adrenalin happy. Having those goosebumps the whole show, when the dance takes you away and you aren't even thinking."
After a full year away from the stage, Rubio made what he calls "my big comeback" under Beirens' direction in Ballet Quad Cities' fall production of Dracula. "I was just happy to be on stage, you know?" he says of the experience. "We created that just to see what I could do. I was off for over a year, and I was just starting back little by little. And it felt pretty good."
Those who saw the Ballet Quad Cities production (and I was one of them) knew that it also looked pretty damned good, and Rubio was subsequently asked back to play Herr Drosselmeyer in December's The Nutcracker, and, this weekend, Coppélia's Dr. Coppélius, an eccentric, Gepetto-like magician who brings one of his mechanical dolls to life. "I'm just getting started in the more composed, mid-age roles," says Rubio of his shift away from "prince-guy and Swan Lake-type roles" that "can be kind of boring. I'd rather play, you know, the more crotchety characters. I mean, everybody wants to be the bad guy. Come on."
Following Coppélia, the artist will return to Nevada to showcase more of his sculptures, but he says that he can't foresee abandoning dance any time soon, if ever. "There's a thing about ‘the vanity of a dancer,'" says Rubio of a common assumption. "No, no, no, no, no. When you're into the music and forget about yourself, vanity doesn't even exist. It's not about me or looking good, but about something you're drawn into. You're pulled into different atmospheres. And that's the most amazing feeling."
Coppélia will be performed at the Adler Theatre on April 26 at 7:30 p.m., and April 27 at 2 p.m. For more information, visit (http://www.balletquadcities.com).
To commemorate Coppélia's opening, newly inaugurated Quad Cities Poet Laureate Dale G. Haake has written a poem titled Coppélia & the Ballet Quad Cities.
Coppélia and the Ballet Quad Cities
Ah Coppélia - on your balcony
Gazing at the swirling below;
Swanilda - a blaze of passions
Of jealousy - vibrant
Swaying like reeds
In a gentle marsh breeze,
A twirl of slender fingers
An ankle placed in air
Just so -
In space awhirl
Of delicate yet steel-muscled chords
Wrapped in silk.
Don't you wish your dolls
Could dance just one time?
Come alive just one time?
Your dreams come true just one time?
Like the arcing grace
Shining on that ballerina's face.
Dedicated to Joedy Cook
Dale G. Haake
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