Rudy Perez Tribute 11/24/1929 – 9/29/2023

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By Nancy Mason Hauser

I left as a critic for “Dance Magazine” in the early 1970s to go to WGBH, Boston's public television station.  Rudy Perez had already been there two years earlier, creating a ground-breaking dance piece for the medium. It was called “District One.”

Commissioned to create a site-specific work (pretty unusual for the time), he chose Government Plaza — a bustling urban square flanked by large buildings, open spaces and many different levels filled with an assortment of dancers, marching bands, and other denizens(including pigeons). He was paired with a visionary (and generous) director, , who encouraged him to design choreography specifically for the camera. Up to this point most dance was taped/filmed with a traditional “long shot”, where everyone was an inch tall, and at a great distance.

Fortunately, Rudy had a friend in New York who had just bought a small portable video camera called a portapak. He came up to Boston and together they worked to design all the shots—close-ups, bodies in motion –and the viewer became an active participant in the dance. This became the shooting script for the expensive broadcast camera and professional crew, who came in a week later. A whole new revolutionary approach to working with dance and video was created – — the choreographer finally became director of his own work. I had never seen anything like it; and it became the model for all the programs I did with choreographers and television for decades after. Years later, we actually met in and I was lucky enough to videotape many of his concerts across the city. We
became very close friends and colleagues. Rudy, you really were one of a kind, and I'm so grateful our paths crossed. May you rest in peace. You certainly made a better place for having been here.

Find the full Los Angeles Times obituary for Rudy Perez here, https://www.latimes.com/obituaries/story/2023-09-30/rudy-perez-choreographer-dies-age-93

5 Comments

  1. Fred Barzyk on November 8, 2023 at 10:20 am

    Fred Barzyk. Legal has restricted any viewing of District 1 on Open Vault.
    The only info on Open Vault can be found at
    https://openvault.wgbh.org/catalog/V_C6B96B99BE654730A443001CDCE6E32A
    We hope that the dance will be available in the future.

  2. Fred Barzyk on November 3, 2023 at 10:59 am

    I remember Rudy as a wonderful and happy guy. I first saw Rudy on of all places NBC’s Today Show. Somehow, the shows producer had heard of a solo dance Rudy had performed at a theater in NYC. They actually had him do the 4 minute dance piece on commercial TV. Wow, I said. This is the guy I need for the grant we had to do a major dance piece.

    Using the NEA Dance panel I was able to commission Rudy to do the dance piece in a location somewhere in Boston. There was a great controversy about the new City Hall. It’s brutish style of architecture was rediculed in the press. The vast empty plaza took a similar beating. When Rudy saw it, he knew this was a perfect palette for his work. We were on.

    The piece is called District 1 because that is where the city hall resides in the map of Boston. I insisted that Rudy and a camera person work with an inexpensive videocamera and create the piece for camera. They took to it with great excitement. Rudy settled into the Boston’s dance scene and soon found trained dancers plus other non dancers. He morphed them into his vision of emulating the visual impact of the building and plaza.

    It was a major effort and it proved that the system of creating the dance worked. Thank you Rudy for all your effort and talent into making it a
    special dance piece. Your work in now archived forever at WGBH

  3. Nancy Mason Hauser on October 30, 2023 at 10:09 pm

    Correction! It wasn’t a log cabin—it was a simple wood-planked house for the time…

  4. Nancy Mason Hauser on October 28, 2023 at 5:52 pm

    Wonderful to hear so quickly from you, Harriet.
    No, « George’s House » was a picture-perfect log cabin in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire where David Atwood and I worked with choreographer Dan Wagoner to create a piece in 1975. Check David’s website for more information and photos, as well as a copy of the piece.
    What you are thinking of was a piece I did with choreographer, Louis Falco a year earlier, in a dilapidated armory, using members of his professional New York company and students from the Harvard University Summer program for dance.
    If you and Rick had already surveyed the site for another dance work, I don’t think I ever knew about it. But I bet it was terrific!

  5. Harriet Reisen on October 28, 2023 at 4:41 pm

    I didn’t know Rudy Perez, but remember Twyla Tharp’s puzzled impatience with cameras that were down for hours when she shot in studio with Fred. Before Nancy arrived, her late husband Rick Hauser and I scouted the old armory in Watertown, now a mall, then a picturesque wreck spangled with broken glass, for a dance piece … was it with Dan Wagoner? Ring a bell?

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