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Miami Ballet Dancer Who Suffered Stroke Paints Throughout His Recovery

Isanusi García Rodríguez’s artwork reflects a timeline: different periods of recovery since 2012, when he suffered a stroke.

Rodríguez used to express himself through dancing. He danced in a number of productions with Miami City Ballet. The stroke left the right side of his body paralyzed; he was not able to communicate and had amnesia for months. During those months, many of his memories would reappear. That prompted him to pick up a paint brush and make the canvas his medium of communication.   

His paintings are sprinkled with bright colors that reflect his Cuban heritage, and they're inspired by the choreography he once did as a dancer.

He will present his artwork, “An Evening of Art With Isanusi, Unveiling of Renacer," to the public in the Moore Building in the Miami Design District: 191 NE 40th Street, Monday starting at 7 p.m.

Sundial visited Rodriguez at the exhibit and talked to him and his wife, Christie Nicole Garcia, about how he found a way to express himself through painting after the stroke.


WLRN: You spend your life trying to become great at something and now all of a sudden it's not that anymore. I want to know your thoughts [about] what that conversation is like when you know that the life you know has to change and you have to go in a different direction. What was it like for you for both of you?

Christie: That's not easy. And I always try to steer Isa in the positive direction to think about the things that he has. Because the doctor said that maybe he wouldn't walk or maybe he- let's just put it this way he said...most likely he wouldn't survive, and if he did his quality of life wouldn't be good enough to want to survive. So just to think about how lucky that he is to be able to do everything he can do, and to look the way that he looks, and to be able to paint, and dance a little bit...

Isanusi: But someday I [am] going to dance. Someday I will dance. Sometimes I have [a] ... seizure but I don't care. Of course I would love to dance.

When did you start painting and why?

Isanusi: I [came] from the hospital. I went to my apartment and I ... couldn't talk. So that is when I started to talk to Chrisie, 'Can you give me my canvas?' She said 'I don't understand.' So ... you can say I proved [myself] with the canvas. I start painting and then she was like - in the morning, 'What are you doing? What are you doing?' I say 'Look at this one.'

You guys were talking through painting?

Christie: Yes in a way. He was really frustrated that he couldn't dance. I think he felt he had no way to express himself. And one day he just started painting again.

Take me to that first time he did paint to talk to you. What was going on at that point?

Christie: It's a painting of a brain that has a bunch of little sections and it has all these memories in it. And I would say that was the first. I feel like he was trying to tell me 'I remember all of these things.'

When you look at his work what do you see?

Christie: I see a story and a timeline in all the paintings. Especially now that I see them all out together. I can see different periods of time of his recovery. I can see things that he was feeling in that moment. Maybe good things, maybe frustrations and maybe dreams.

What message you would have for anyone who spends their life devoted to something and then it's taken away? That's not easy for most of us but we have to adapt. Obviously he's adapted. You've adapted. 

Christie: I would say don't give up and think positive and think about everything that you have. Even though it's hard in the moment, try not to dwell on everything you don't have. And that is very difficult. But try to be thankful for what you do have and make the best of it. I guess that's what I tried to do with Isa all the time.