It would be difficult to exaggerate how good the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre performance at Studio5 was. On the 13th of October, they performed their beautifully constructed fall concert Alone / Together in front of a sold out Studio5 house.
This story is not meant to be a review, but in case you have the chance to see the last performance of Alone / Together (Saturday October 21 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts), maybe it would help to do a kind of Speed-Review before we get back to the actual story. To keep it really fast, this will just be a list of different parts of the performance, and then a quick answer to the question “Was that part really good?”, just ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Here goes — The choreography? Yes. The musicianship? Yes. The performances by the Cerqua Rivera dancers in an amazing range of movement designs? Yes. The flow of the entire show? Yes. The individuality of each intensely committed performance by a stage full of constantly interacting artists? Oh yeah. Now back to the 4PHOTOS …
Cerqua Rivera still has one more performance in their cross-city tour for Alone / Together, and this time they’re at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts. We asked Cerqua Rivera’s Executive Director Catherine Painter to tell us some more about the program based on four photos from Alone / Together. Here’s an inside look at where just four of the moments in a superb evening come from.
By Sherry Zunker and Joe Cerqua
photo by Dan Kasberger, feat. dancer Federica Cocom & musician Juli Wood
Late in 2015, Wilfredo recruited choreographer Sherry Zunker to create a new work on Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. They were long-time friends from their work together at River North Dance Chicago. Cerqua Rivera had just made some exciting leaps forward—artistically and as an organization—and Wilfredo knew Sherry would help drive the company even further.
Sherry and her collaborator, CRDT co-founder and composer Joe Cerqua, started on what seemed like a straight-forward piece in 2016. They were inspired by human interaction and intimacy. Sherry brought sharp, slinky jazz dance and Joe brought a sexy, bluesy score.
Over the course of the season, though, Sherry dug into the rougher, more intimate elements of the theme. She had dancers and musicians improvise and respond to one another in real time. Audiences loved a spare, emotional recording of “I’ve Put a Spell on You”, and Sherry kept it in the final piece. When Between Us debuted in our fall 2016 concerts, audiences raved.
As much as we liked what we made last year, we knew we could go further. How much stronger would the middle section be with a live vocalist joining the musician and dancers on stage? What if we used more of the company to express the longing and electricity of human contact?
As Sherry puts it, “There has been a lot of growth and maturity in the dance and musical realm of the artistic product since the beginnings of last year’s season and it is very exciting to witness that.”
— Catherine Painter
by Sherry Zunker & Joe Cerqua
Photo by Dan Kasberger, feat. musicians Tim Archbold, James Sanders; vocalist Typhanie Monique; dancers Brennen Renteria, Hannah Inayoshi
Between Us 2017 features a vocalist and musician interacting with the dance company, in addition to the CRDT jazz band providing the soundtrack. In its review of Cerqua Rivera’s opening weekend of its fall concert series Alone/Together, the Chicago Tribune praised the “stellar arrangement” of I Put a Spell on You by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and called the piece “timeless and exciting.”
Here Comes Treble
by Taylor Mitchell & Dan Hesler
Photo by Dan Kasberger, feat. musicians Danny Howard & Mike Levin, dancers Miranda Borkan, Hannah Inayoshi, Jordan Colovos, Quincie Bean, Madison Rose Hom, Richard Pena
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre selected its first-ever CRDT Choreography Fellow, Taylor Mitchell, from among over a dozen applicants because of his unique proposal. He suggested that the company explore what it would be like if several conductors arrived to direct an orchestra. He wanted to bring not only his experience as a dancer and choreographer, but also his training in traditional clowning to the project. True to Cerqua Rivera’s history of collaboration and experimentation, they decided to go for it.
Taylor was paired with long-time CRDT composer Dan Hesler. Taylor immediately issued him a challenge—create a orchestral sounding score for our 9-piece jazz band. Make music that hinted at recognizable “orchestral” music while it reflected a sometimes chaotic battle for leadership.
He led the dance ensemble in experiments. Who can create the most annoying sound in the world? The company practiced pushing one another to the ground and falling without hurting ourselves. They jumped in front of one another and mugged for the audience. Maybe it was a little cathartic. The resulting piece is kinetic, funny, and intense.
— Catherine Painter
Photo by Dan Kasberger. CRDT musician Pharez Whitted performs before an audience
In 2017, Cerqua Rivera’s jazz band, whose role has grown in recent years, comes center stage. The Chicago Tribune review of the company’s Opening Night performance of its fall concert series, Alone/Together, starts with “The marriage of music and dance is what Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is all about. And though it’s a dance company, this group’s fall series “Alone/Together” relies as heavily on the creative talents of co-founder Joe Cerqua and music director Stu Greenspan as on artistic director Wilfredo Rivera.”
— Catherine Painter
Photo at top: Cerqua Rivera dancers performing with Dan Hesler (Photo by Catherine Painter)
There’s one more performance of this extraordinary exploration of music, dance, and the inspiration that music and dance can discover. Cerqua Rivera’s Alone / Together is at Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E 60th St, Chicago, October 21, 7:00 pm, and here’s more information about tickets.