Draper Guest Artist Irene Rodriguez Interviewed by Local News

Aug 15, 2023

Irene Rodriguez Shares Her Story to Rochester News

While we had our amazing Guest Artist Irene Rodriguez for the week a local news channel reached out wanting to tell her story. Below is the story that was shared with the whole Rochester area. We were incredibly lucky to have her for our 4 Week Intensive this year.



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.


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Many Draper graduates have joined notable professional companies including New York City Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Ballet Met, Nashville Ballet, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, National Ballet Of Canada, Alonzo King's Lines, Cedar Lake Dance, Hubbard Street, Cirque Du Soleil, Rochester City Ballet and many more.

Draper Center for Dance Education