Interview with Henry Rodríguez: ‘I’m absolutely flying with this programme’

freelance choreographer, dancer and teacher

As a seven-year-old boy, Henry Rodríguez, from Cuba, was selected for the famous national ballet academy in Havana, but in the end his father wasn’t keen. “In his opinion, ballet wasn’t for boys.” But of course blood will tell – “I was always thinking about ballet” – and at the age of 17 Henry ended up at a dance academy after all; the Escuela Nacional de Danza, where he took the Spanish dance programme, which also included classes in ballet and ‘escuela bolera’ (a style that has many similarities to character dance). On completing his training, he was accepted for the contemporary dance company Danza Contemporánea de Cuba, but he says, “Ballet was always part of everything I did, even if I was performing Afro-Cuban dances.”

Endless reflection

In 2018, Henry came to the Netherlands, and after spending five years as a dancer, choreographer and teacher in the freelance contemporary dance circuit, he felt a growing need to return to his original passion, as it were, and get his teeth into the profession of ballet teacher. “Of course, all the knowledge I gain from this Bachelor’s course enriches my teaching work in the first place. At the moment, I’m giving regular evening classes in ‘escuela bolera’, and after these classes I can’t stop reflecting, because of all the new knowledge I’ve acquired. I hardly get any sleep on those days”, he laughs. “But at the same time, I’m also learning thousands of new skills that are helping me develop as a dancer and choreographer.” He adds enthusiastically, “I’m absolutely flying with this programme. I feel incredibly spoilt, as I’m getting so much out of the course.”

Totally passionate

Both the personal classes with the NBA teachers and the ‘viewing classes’ (where he observes the teachers at work with the dance pupils and students) are very special to him. “During the classes, you really realise that being a teacher revolves not just around experience and demonstrating the steps in the right way, but also around having to be totally passionate. And that when you see a student struggling with something, you know exactly what that student needs and how to help them with it and coach them.”

He, too, gets a great deal of support himself from the teachers, even outside the regular curriculum. “For instance, through the intercession of teacher Marion Vijn, I got the opportunity to assist at the workshop Zoë Greten gave to NBA 7, in November. That was an absolutely fantastic experience for me!” And when teacher Simona Ferrazza and artistic director Ernst Meisner heard that Henry was drumming up support for dancers in Cuba (providing things like dancing shoes, dance belts, medicines and tampons), they lost no time in finding out how they could help with the initiative. “Eventually, they put me in touch with Dutch National Ballet’s pointe shoe managers, and last Christmas I set off for Cuba with four boxes of pointe shoes worth no less than three thousand Euros.”


Like Qian Liu, Henry, who is now 32, wants to continue dancing for the moment, but he is also busy developing his own teaching and choreography method, including a dance notation system, for which he’s submitted a pitch to the Henny Kamerman Dancers Prize, from the ATD Fund. “My aim is to bridge the gap between classical ballet training on the one hand, and choreography and creativity on the other. How can you stimulate the creativity of new generations of dancers even further? I’d like to do research into that, along with experts and academics, and hopefully eventually give a new dimension and new impetus to ballet training.”

> Click here  for more information about the BA Teacher of Classical Ballet course.