LAST FRIDAY we caught up with Ballet San Jose‘s Principal Ballet Master Raymond Rodriguez and talked to him briefly about his experience staging — and performing in — Graduation Ball.
Born in New York City and trained at the American Ballet Theatre School, Raymond joined Cleveland Ballet (now Ballet San Jose) in 1981, where he danced principal roles for many years. Most recently, Raymond served as Régisseur with Ballet San Jose until this year, when he was appointed Principal Ballet Master of the Company. When Ballet San Jose last performed David Lichine’s Graduation Ball in February 2002, Raymond appeared as The General — a role he will reprise this season! But this time, Raymond will also stage the ballet himself.
When we asked him about the difference between performing Graduation Ball and staging it, Raymond said: “When staging a ballet, I have to know every single role. At this point, I could put on a one-man show. [When I’m just] dancing, I worry about my own role, as opposed to when I’m staging a ballet, which means I have to worry about everyone!”
Sounds stressful! But Raymond said he is also extremely excited to be playing the role of The General again this year.
“As soon as I put on the wig and the fat suit, my whole personality is transformed,” he said. “When I tried on the wig for the first time the other day, my body suddenly hunched over. I started making faces. I felt like I was becoming The General.”
He added: “I think that’s the case for a lot of the dancers — once they are in costume and makeup, they really immerse themselves in their roles.”
In fact, that magical transformation is one of the things Raymond said he loves most about Graduation Ball as a ballet and as a story.
“Graduation Ball is a great company piece for storytelling,” he explained. “It’s great for both children and adults because it tells a story of being a young college student at a ball. Adults can relate because it brings them back to a time when they were first dating and falling in love. It’s an amazing acting opportunity for all the dancers in the company.”
With its lighthearted storytelling, cast of quirky characters and evocation of first loves, Graduation Ball is the perfect complement to the rest of Program 1 of the 2012 Season: the iconic classical ballet Paquita and Jerome Robbins’ contemporary American masterpiece Interplay. Given that Graduation Ball is the only company revival in the 2012 Season, you can see why we were so eager to bring it back. The piece has found its niche in Ballet San Jose’s repertoire as a much beloved story ballet and comedy extravaganza.
We can’t wait to see what Raymond and the dancers make of it this year!
Ballet San Jose