As the principal dancers in the Cleveland Ballet’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” — roles choreographed for them by ballet director Dennis Nahat — the pair seemed to embody young, star-crossed lovers. Their personal story ended happily when the couple wed in San Diego, Gabay’s hometown.
The couple has since divorced, but they remain artistic partners. Most of the year, they perform with Ballet San Jose, their artistic home since Cleveland Ballet expired in 2000. Gabay is a principal dancer and rehearsal assistant. Rodriguez, the regisseur, is responsible for training and coaching all the dancers in their various roles.
Although they left the area, they haven’t left Cleveland behind. In the summer, they return to work with Pointe of Departure, a company they founded in 1988.
“Karen and I are the artistic directors, and we hire approximately 14 dancers,” Rodriguez says, adding that the couple feel a special affection for the region where they matured artistically.
“Both Karen and I spent over 20 years in Cleveland,” Rodriguez says. When the Cleveland Ballet closed, “we didn’t just want to walk away from the city. We didn’t feel it was right.”