When Juan Carlos Rincones arrived in Washington from Venezuela in 1980 to start his freshman year at The George Washington University, dancing was the furthest thing from his mind.
He'd never set foot in a dance studio in his life, and he was certain he'd be in Washington only as long as it took to earn a degree in civil engineering. So how is it that Rincones has become a 23-year-Washingtonian, the past nine of which have been spent at the helm of one of the city's most esteemed modern dance troupes, Rincones & Company Dance Theater?
It all started with a flier for Joy of Motion Dance Center that Rincones picked up one day in the early '80s while walking in Dupont Circle, despondent over the choice of his first boyfriend, another Venezuelan student, to return home and get married.
"I felt completely abandoned," says Rincones, 40, who was also struggling to come to grips with his sexuality. "I was miserable, I was doing terribly in school, and I couldn't afford a shrink."
Sensing that a dance class just might be the kind of change of pace that would take his mind off his troubles, Rincones signed up for the next one scheduled -- a Friday night course in Afro-Jazz. "It was so therapeutic," he recalls, "because for that hour and a half that the class lasted, you couldn't think about anything else. I experienced such a rush from being able to be out of my turmoil. I got hooked."
Rincones started going to dance classes more often, and engineering classes less, until he eventually decided to focus exclusively on a career as a dancer-choreographer. With his vocational calling in perspective, Rincones also found himself better able to accept his sexuality, and he's built an eighteen-year relationship with noted interior designer Thomas Pheasant.
"Being gay is an undercurrent that's always there in my work," Rincones says. "Dance is, after all, an accumulation of your experiences in order to express something very personal about who you are."
Rincones & Company Dance Theater performs at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater on Thursday, May 15, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $35. Call 202-467-4600. Visit www.rinconesdancetheater.org.