This year, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre celebrates its 20th anniversary season. Every dance company dreams of celebrating such a milestone, so what is the secret to the success? It might have something to do with the incredible blend of live dance and music that the company continues to curate, but more likely it is the passionate and consistent commitment to their artistic mission that co-founders Wilfredo Rivera and Joe Cerqua demonstrate year after year. Despite the challenges of building and maintaining an audience, procuring funding, and pushing the boundaries of both music and dance, CRDT has nourished the creative talents of dancers, choreographers, musicians, composers, visual artists, and countless others to create opportunities to share their vision and use art as a vehicle to create a stronger, more understanding community.
CRDT’s upcoming season promises to deliver yet another year of thought-provoking choreography and original music compositions, as well as the completion of a project four years in the making. DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera caught up with CRDT Artistic Director and Co-Founder Wilfredo Rivera about what is in store this year, as well as the importance of community and collaboration. Here’s what he told us:
The dancers command the choreography while at the same time, literally transforming spiritually on stage.
“Four years ago CRDT purposefully set on a pursuit of artistic growth. The addition of unique and critically acclaimed choreographers paired with innovative composers has attracted an ensemble of seasoned dancers. I’m thrilled that we are reaping the benefits of this investment as the company continues to steadily blossom in its artistic values. Particularly this year, our 20th Anniversary season, promises to reflect this new era for the company.
ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho (to be premiered Fall 2019) personifies CRDT’s unique approach from both the creative and performance aspects. The composition by Joe Cerqua embodies so many qualities: spirituality, earthiness, percussiveness and heart touching melodies. The score supports the transcending choreographic journey that Monique Haley paints on stage. This collaborative music/movement pairing illuminates CRDT’s sophisticated marriage of forms. The dancers command the choreography while at the same time, literally transforming spiritually on stage. Audiences were visibly moved by the dancers’ passionate preview performances this past fall. This season, we are excited about the addition of African percussionist Paul Cotton (from Muntu Dance Theater). He will contribute texture and a new perspective to the suite’s environment.” — Wilfredo Rivera
There is much to be gained from the staying power of returning to a location and premiering new works, thus keeping people excited about seeing the company again the following year.
“It has been true for a while now that all live artistic forms are challenged to not only build audiences, but also to have them return. To meet these challenges, we have found value in developing continued partnerships with arts venues across Chicagoland. We share resources and a committed interest in developing and retaining audiences. Although they demand patience and a true collaborative investment of time and resources, these relationships differ tremendously from a typical rental agreement.
This season, for example, we are celebrating a three-year presenting initiative with Studio5 Performing Arts Center in Evanston, led by the amazing team of Beá & Stephen Rashid. In this case, our company serves as a perfect ambassador of the venue’s dance and jazz music presenting programming; the space, in return, beautifully accommodates our ensemble. We over sold our inaugural year. Last year we expanded to two evenings, which we sold out. This Fall we are excited for Studio5 to be our first stop again out of three Chicago venues.
As part of the arts community in Chicago we share a civic responsibility to provide varied communities with access to high quality art.
Old Town School of Folk Music and Links Hall/Constellation anchors us in Chicago and the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (UC) in Hyde Park among others, are presenting venues we have been partnering for 3-4 continuous seasons. There is much to be gained from the staying power of returning to a location and premiering new works, thus keeping people excited about seeing the company again the following year. For our Inside/Out previews we are working again with Dovetail studio and Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center on the west side. We are in grateful for the support of our rehearsal home Extensions Dance Company, led by indomitable Lizzie McKenzie as well as our rehearsal partnerships with Columbia College and Lou Conte Dance Studio.
The marriage of these combined resources allows us the opportunity to literally be present and active in an array of Chicago neighborhoods. As part of the arts community in Chicago we share a civic responsibility to provide varied communities with access to high quality art. CRDT fulfills this mission through our Inside/Out programs and Fall concerts series peppered through various locations. Our ticket prices also remain equitable and accessible across the various locations.” – Wilfredo Rivera
CRDT artists illustrate a community of people standing for a common good and, in our small way, set a beautiful example for the community at large.
“In our polarized climate and anxious environment – one that encourages superficial, personal gain and immediate gratification – the performing arts have the responsibility to serve as a unifying voice and moral compass. Besides the artistic and aesthetic value, we believe that audiences gain by experiencing the high quality CRDT artists collaborating and letting go of any main staying musical/choreographic ideas. By having artists open up to the collaborative process and by being that vulnerable on stage, we are able to share with audiences that working together, although challenging, can also yield amazing results. CRDT artists illustrate a community of people standing for a common good and, in our small way, set a beautiful example for the community at large.” – Wilfredo Rivera
CRDT is the perfect company for Shannon to work with on this particular artistic endeavor for many reasons: we thrive on research, organic connections and intellectual stimulation.
“Our artists are a megaphone for diversity. When referring to diversity we aim to transcend the traditional notions of mere color and look ahead to a future that embraces equity in gender, age, socio-economic dynamics, sexual orientation and cultural background.
Our 20th Anniversary Season is rooted in three distinct suites reflective of our vision. American Catracho (4 years in the making) about the immigrant and assimilation experience inspired by my own migration journey (originally from Honduras), premieres as a full suite. It includes choreography by my project partner Noelle Kayser, as well as Christian Denice.
Next, Monique Haley’s ROOT will be completed. Elements of African Diaspora are explored to reflect a female choreographer’s vision of spiritual evolution: struggle, despair, clarity and redemption within oneself inside a community. What does it mean to be a woman of color in the dance field, and how are dynamics within oneself shifting as the community around us shift?
Shannon Alvis’s Place Between Earth & Sky (working title) paired with Latin Grammy nominated composer Clarice Assad is an exploration of Shannon’s Native American background. We are honored to be acting as the vessel for this very personal exploration. CRDT is the perfect company for Shannon to work with on this particular artistic endeavor for many reasons: we thrive on research, organic connections and intellectual stimulation. Shannon, Clarice (who is Brazilian) and I are as different as we are alike; we are all equally terrified and excited about the challenges to honor Shannon’s new trajectory and to rendering a respectful homage to this rich history.” – Wilfredo Rivera
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre kicks off its 20th anniversary season with their Company Showcase and Sneak Preview on April 18 at 7 pm at Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago 60625). Tickets are available at www.oldtownschool.org.
The Company Showcase and Sneak Preview performance by CRDT’s dance ensemble and jazz band will include ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho by Monique Haley and Joe Cerqua (2018), American Catracho (part 2) by Wilfredo Rivera and Joe Cerqua, Choreography by Noelle Kayser (2018, excerpt), the work-in-progress debut of Shannon Alvis’s Place Between Earth and Sky plus the introduction of the 2019 Company and preview of the 2019 #CRDT20th Anniversary Season.
Learn more about the company and its upcoming performances by visiting cerquarivera.org.