You may have heard the name Christopher Rudd floating around in your circle of dancer friends. Hailing from Jamaica, Christopher grew up in Miami where he graduated from New World School of the Arts.
As a professional dancer, he was a founding member of Carolina Ballet, a soloist with Les Grands Ballet Canadiens de Montreal, and a performer with Cirque Du Soleil. Now after years of traversing oceans and seas, Mr. Rudd continues his journey in New York – the birthplace of his company RudduR Dance.
What started as a dream is now a reality thanks to support from major organizations as well as grassroot efforts. Growing steadily since 2015, RudduR Dance presented its first single-billed show in May 2018 at Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture in partnership with the CUNY Dance Initiative. Empowered blends contemporary ballet, modern dance, and the aerial arts with theatricality to speak to timely social issues; glimpses of this piece can be found in the video below.
Better yet, continue reading to discover why Mr. Rudd is a leader to believe in and one who will continue to be a part of your conversations in the future.
Interview with Christopher Rudd
When did you first discover that you like choreographing?
I knew for a while that I enjoyed choreographing as an intellectual exercise. But it wasn’t until 2014 when I choreographed Kristina Zaidner’s Ailey/Fordham BFA senior solo that I fell in love with it. Before that, creation it was akin to constructing a puzzle without seeing the picture. I didn’t feel connected to the work in my bones, as it was a series of steps for the sake of what I believed should follow the previous step.
However, creating “… I See,” felt different. The process wasn’t linear. Zaidner and I would discuss many topics ranging from our personal lives to politics to growing up in Miami, and the music wasn’t set. I played Pandora in the background while playing choreographically with Z (as she is affectionately known).
One day Z came to rehearsal excited to show me the solo on a piece of music that she believed fit the work. I was taken aback by her presumption and initiative but told her to SELL it to me by doing it (it was her senior solo after all). As I sat and watched her try to convince me by dancing my work to Chopin’s Nocturne no. 19, my eyes began to water. Not only was I feeling for the first time from my own work, but, I was realizing that I COULD feel from my own work.
That was the beginning of a driving force that I hunt for during a creation. The joy as a dancer for me was performing and rarely the creation. Now, as a choreographer, my joy is chiseling a work into existence while questioning its relevance and honoring what the piece tells me it needs to be.
Why did you decide to start your own company rather than choreographing for others?
It wasn’t so much of a choice as it was my only feasible means of being able to create. I had moved to NYC and retired from dancing before I really heard the call to create. At the time, I had not proven myself as a choreographer to receive commissions by others. I was just a dancer with a dream. I had work to do in order to give people a reason to commission me.
Now I have a number of works to show for myself. Naturally, I wish for and seek out opportunities to choreograph on others. And if anyone is interested I hope that they please reach out to me if I haven’t had a chance to contact them first.
What aspects of your classical ballet background do you draw upon?
Classical ballet is my native tongue and my first dance love. Admittedly, I have yet to choreograph a classical ballet or on “classical” ballet dancers, but I hope to and long for the time when that opportunity presents itself. My works tend to have the DNA of the dancers in the room and I am intrigued by the prospect of having classical/neoclassical dancers with which to play, especially in relation to aerial.
RudduR Dance Artists tend to be modern/contemporary dancers with ballet sensibility, an investigatory nature, who are fearless, willing to try new styles, and are invested in the process. However, I use ballet terminology and the skeleton of my works are structured drawing upon classical ballet.
As an Artistic Director and Choreographer, who/what have been your most prominent influences?
I have many many influences. As a founding member of Robert Weiss’ Carolina BalletI got to watch the building of a new company; that experience informs the methodic and patient steps to laying the foundation and building RudduR Dance.
As a dancer with Les Grand Ballet Canadiens de Montreal, I witnessed the depth that dance can touch the human soul; this directs my choreographic goal and gives me the courage to not stop chiseling a work until the piece approaches that place. Working as a dancer on the creation of a show for Cirque Du Soleil enabled me to see the inner workings of their “wow” factor; this experience opened my imagination and broadened my spacial awareness and gravity’s effect on movement.
Why did you choose New York as the home base of Ruddur Dance?
When I decided to retire from “company life”, I chose NYC as the opportunity to make a living as a freelance artist is second to none in the United States – perhaps the world. This was a fortuitous decision for me. The “empire” city has an established infrastructure to start RudduR Dance. Ample studio space, talented dancers hungry to work, and the eyes of the world taking note on the ongoings.
However, the city is saturated with companies and voices all vying to be noticed and funded. When companies like Cedar Lake and now Jessica Lang Dance folds, I question the wisdom of staying here. The future is both exciting and scary.
Do you have some sort of a 5-year plan?
The Company’s immediate necessity is to continue to make a name and find creation, presentation, and funding opportunities for RudduR Dance. The next steps are to find a physical home for the Company that will allow us to open a school that offers a wide variety of concert dance classes as well as aerial, music, and acting classes.
This school will have a scholarship program inspired by and in honor of the Thomas Armour Youth Ballet for which I credit my artistic journey. Additionally, it is important for me to provide access to view dance, create dance, and learn the business of dance regardless of one’s socioeconomic circumstance. Like I said before, the future is both exciting and scary.
What are some of RudduR Dance's upcoming events?
The next opportunity to see my work is in Miami, FL on Dec. 1st at the Colony Theater on South Beach with an encore presentation on Dec. 9th at the Alper JCC. I am excited that Dance Now! Miami has commissioned me to create F(l)ight on their dancers and I am looking forward to seeing it.
This commission afforded me the chance to be mentored by the founding Dean of Dance at New World School of the Arts, Daniel Lewis. He is a world-renowned teacher, choreographer, and performer and is credited for countless careers from Miami artists, including my own. It was truly an honor to gain insights on the creative process.
Also, we have been introducing Empowered to presenters, festivals, and colleges locally, nationally and abroad. I am excited to officially announce that we have been invited to five presentation opportunities to date: festivals in Ecuador, Belize, and the Dominican Republic and venues in Dallas, TX and Hudson Valley, NY.
Cherilyn's lifelong passion for ballet has opened the door to the next chapter of her journey. Her strong foundation includes training at the School of American Ballet, being a featured dancer with Hartford Ballet and Carolina Ballet, and being co-director/owner of City Ballet Raleigh. She was granted the Affiliate Teacher Award after successfully completing the ABT National Training Curriculum®. A professional career in the industry along with extensive global travel provide her with a unique set of experiences to draw upon as a journalist and audience member. Cherilyn is excited to be sharing her insight about ballet around the world.