Renowned flamenco dancer who fled Cuba shares her talents with Rochester students

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – She is the embodiment of poetry in motion.

Internationally acclaimed flamenco dancer Irene Rodriguez now teaches the art form all over the world, from The Juilliard School to the Draper Center for Dance Education in Rochester where teens and tweens have been hanging on her every word this week.

“She’s incredible. And her vast knowledge of Spanish dance is just off the charts, and she’s an incredible choreographer,” Jamey Leverett, Draper’s artistic director, said. “So we were so fortunate to connect with her and she was free and able to come here for a week.”

It’s been a week in which these young dancers have created a symphony of sound: a dancing drumline making music with their feet.

“It’s really fun to do different sounds and everyone doing different things and it all coming together and being like one big showcase,” student Marko Kokovic said.

But to really appreciate her art, you have to know her story. Four years ago, Irene fled Cuba’s Communist dictatorship with only her costumes.

Irene Rodriguez, dancer: “When someone asks me how painful it was for me, I always answer the same thing. Can you imagine cutting a half of your body and leave without that half? That is what I feel.”

Deanna Dewberry, News10NBC: “It was like cutting away half of who you are.”

Irene Rodriguez, dancer: “Yeah.”

But here in the U.S., she’s building a new life sharing her art, which, for her, is as essential as breathing.

“Dancing flamenco, you have the freedom to express who really you are,” she said. “You are speaking volumes with your body. And at the same time, we are musicians, too, because of the footwork. We make music with everything – with the shoes, with the hands, the percussion in your body. We make music the whole time.”

And she believes she can teach anyone flamenco: even a reporter with no rhythm.

Her passion is contagious. Her joy, tangible. Her talent, undeniable.

So for a week, dozens of kiddos right here in Rochester got to taste the magic of a master.

Click here to see some of Rodriguez’s performances.