While in Chile during the last week of May, I was able to interview Andreza Randisek and Rodrigo Guzman a few hours before they were to open as Katarina and Petruchio in Ballet de Santiago’s Taming of the Shrew.
Toba Singer: What from your own lives do you use to create your characters?
Andreza Randisek: I feel that all of life’s experiences serve us in interpreting roles. Katarina is no different. Her rebellion, desire to scream at everybody, ill will, we experience those things often. We fight, have problems; we’re tired of everything. It’s out of those everyday experiences that you can create a persona. All of us, many times, have had to accept things we don’t like, agree to something the other person wants that we don’t. This is especially true for women: So often, you have to submit to men, even lie about what you really feel. Having experienced all this helps me to do Katarina.
Rodrigo Guzmán: Everything we experience contributes to the relations between human beings, above all as a couple, but in this piece there are situations that are especially similar to what happens in our lives. It’s my second time dancing this role. The first time I didn’t have access to the coach who originated it. Now, with Richard Cragun here, I am better able to see what John Cranko wanted when he made it. We benefited from having seen the Francisco Zeferelli 1967 film, Taming of the Shrew, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. But this time, I have been able to develop the role from the material Richard Cragun is sharing about its first conception. There are two distinct processes: The first has to do with Marcía Haydée, who originated the role of Katarina and is Artistic Director of Ballet de Santiago, and then with Richard, as I gain an understanding of precisely what Cranko wanted from the choreography. So the process began by me doing it alone, and developed more as I began to work with Richard. The character grew through this process. For example, it is easier to do more than less with the comic elements, and you court the danger of moving quickly from comic into caricature, and that cheapens it. It has been important to work with Richard on the details. In the first pas de deux fight Petruchio is very macho. Then he develops an approach in which he needs to see himself as a gentleman instead because his vanity demands it. Both are two sides of the same coin. The audience has to be able to see him actually go through this process. This is where the help with the details has been so important: He flatters her, and her frank response is, “What a fraud!” Thanks to Richard and Marcía, we have all of this in this production.
What has been the most difficult technical challenge in this ballet?
AR: It’s very difficult to go from hunching one’s shoulders and planting the heel in anger, where all the accents are down and the alignment of the body is not balletic to suddenly doing an up-accented bourrée en pointe to get to another place on the stage where you will returning to the hunched back down accent. One moment you are down here [demonstrates heel planted and arms akimbo] and the next, you have to be on your leg to achieve the correct alignment. I have danced 30 years, and the hardest pas de deux I have ever danced are the three in this ballet. This ballet is so hard! It will never go perfectly no matter how much you rehearse. Something always goes wrong. But this ballet is one of my favorites is because it’s a joy when you can give the public something for the soul and the brain.
RG: We are a classical company, but here we have an opportunity to do these subtle colorations. Last time, it was so hard that all the casts found it difficult. It takes at least 10 weeks to perfect it. During the first rehearsals everyone feels disheartened because the conflict and the difficulties consume you. But as you conquer it over the weeks that follow, you find out how much it enriches you.
What has been the most difficult theatrical challenge?
RG: For every one of the roles, the most difficult thing is to do the technical work without losing the character. One very difficult theatrical challenge comes in the first scene where Petruchio has to pretend that he is drunk. It’s the most complicated of all. I began to dance this pas de deux late in my career, but the first time I saw it danced, I said to myself, “This is what I want to do, to dance.”
Which part of the ballet do you enjoy most?
AR: If I had to choose, it would be impossible: In the first act, she is angry, and that’s very hard, and so I like being able to do it, but in the second, I like the other side of her personality, and I love the last pas de deux because it has the magic, the music, and lightness, the freedom! Each pas de deux is so different that it’s hard to say.
RG: I like the fighting.
Were there specific suggestions that Marcía or Richard made that helped you?
AR: Marcía and Richard were key to the process. Each word he or she said was important. To dance comedy successfully, one must be serious. Don’t ham it up. That was an important piece of advice, but honestly, we worked every day with the millions of the things they told us.
RG: The other important role they played was to transmit what they know to a new generation of dancers. Above all, it is a privilege and an honor to work with such great artists, who know every detail of Cranko’s conceptions, not just the steps, but also the nuances. One cannot allow that they be lost to new generations. Unfortunately, other companies do a copy of a copy and the original traits can be lost.
AR: This is why working with them is such a gift.
What do you hope that the audience will see about themselves in Katarina and Petruchio?
RG: Mostly, I hope that they will go through each emotional stage along with us, each moment, and experience each emotion.
AR: I think that many women will identify with Katarina, and that it will happen in two ways. First, they will resist wanting to look like her: angry, masculine, and forceful, but the other way is to identify with those same emotions. I hope the public will enjoy Taming of the Shrew. The purpose of this ballet is for the audience to enjoy it. I hope all the women feel like Katarina and all the men feel like Petruchio for two hours.
RG: It may not correspond to their lives exactly, but I hope they can experience the climate, the weather between Katarina and Petruchio, as their own.
AR: I hope they will walk out of the theater and consider their own behavior. Does how I behave toward others work for me?
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Toba Singer, author of “First Position: a Century of Ballet Artists” (Praeger 2007), was Senior Program Director of the Art and Music Center of the San Francisco Public Library and its dance selector until her retirement in 2010. Raised in The Bronx, she graduated from New York City’s School of Performing Arts with a major in Drama, the University of Massachusetts with a BA in History; and the University of Maryland with an MLS. Since high school, Singer has been actively engaged in a broad range of pro-labor, social, and political campaigns. She has lived, worked, organized and written in Baltimore, Boston, The Bronx, Cambridge, Charleston, West Virginia, Jersey City, Richmond, Virginia, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., working in steel mills, chemical refineries, garment shops and as an airlines worker; also editing, teaching and as an office worker. Singer has contributed articles to the “Charleston Gazette,” “San Francisco Chronicle,” “Dance Magazine,” “Dance Europe,” “City Paper,” “Provincetown Advocate,” “Voice of Dance,” CriticalDance.com, “InDance,” and “Dance Source Houston.”
Singer returned to the studio to study ballet after a 25-year absence, and in 2001, was invited to become a founding member of the board of Robert Moses’ KIN dance company. Singer studied ballet with Svetlana Afanasieva, Nina Anderson, Perry Brunson, Richard Gibson, Zory Karah, Celine Keller, Charles McGraw, Francoise Martinet, Augusta Moore, E. Virginia Williams, and Kahz Zmuda; and Modern Dance with Cora Cahan, Jane Dudley, Nancy Lang, Donald McKayle, Gertrude Shurr, and Zenaide Trigg. Her son James Gotesky dances with Houston Ballet. Singer lives in Oakland, California, with her husband Jim Gotesky.