When Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre brings their very successful fall concert Alone / Together to Studio5 on Friday, October 13, you’ll be seeing layer upon layer of creativity. That’s because one of the most imaginative dance companies you can go see, Cerqua Rivera, will be performing in one of the most imaginatively designed venues in Metro Chicago.
Studio5 is the remarkable vision of choreographer Béa Rashid and her multitalented (composer, musician, producer and radio host) husband Steve Rashid, and Cerqua Rivera has always been a relentless exploration of how dance expresses music and how music inspires dance. Dancer Music’s Kristi Licera wrote in our PRE-View of Alone / Together, “The artists at Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater are well known for their music and dance collaborations, but Alone/Together is a collaborative effort that goes far beyond the walls of the stage and studio.” Studio5, the new dance and music venue in Evanston, is just as much a collaborative effort, and goes just as far beyond the expectations of how an audience can see either, or in the case of Cerqua Rivera, both of these arts.
… you’ll be seeing layer upon layer of creativity. That’s because one of the most imaginative dance companies you can go see, Cerqua Rivera, will be performing in one of the most imaginatively designed venues in Metro Chicago.
We asked Béa and Steve Rashid to tell us some more about how all of this came together, and what they told us makes the Cerqua Rivera performance at Studio5 (Friday, October 13 at 7:30) seem all the more exciting.
Johnny Nevin: You and your composer/producer/musician husband Steve Rashid have collaborated on a number of projects, so you have a unique perspective on the interwoven arts of Dance and Music. How did that influence your interest in bringing Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater to Studio5?
Béa Rashid: Steve and I met collaborating on The Practical Theater Company’s hilariously funny comedy review Art, Ruth, and Trudy. Steve worked on the music and I on the choreography. A very different process of movement and music collaboration than concert dance, it nonetheless drew us together, and the rest is history.
I am drawn to the live music, live dance collaborative mission of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, and want to support it. Live accompaniment is so rare for dancers, and often only possible for big budget companies. I have seen and experienced the energy that comes through the dancer who has the musician behind them. When they first come together, it can be a time consuming process as each artist works to blend their technical needs with their artistic expression. Afterwards, all I hear is “when can we do this again?” Steve and I have created several opportunities to collaborate using the dancers of the Evanston Dance Ensemble. EDE has commissioned original compositions for 2001, A Dance Odyssey, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and we are currently working on an adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream.
Live accompaniment is so rare for dancers, and often only possible for big budget companies. I have seen and experienced the energy that comes through the dancer who has the musician behind them
Of course live performance is so ephemeral, but the memory and the experience informs future artistic endeavors, thus . . . Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre at Studio5.
Johnny: Studio5 is an unusually good place to see dance. I remember seeing a great performance by Chicago Repertory Ballet there last Spring — I had just seen them a week or two earlier at the Biograph Theater in Chicago. I really like seeing dance at the Biograph, so I was really impressed that the same concert looked — and sounded — even more engaging at Studio5. You and Steve and Dance Center Evanston have put a lot of thought into the design of Studio5 — can you share some of what those thoughts and goals were?
Béa: I had my eyes on the empty space next door to Dance Center Evanston for years. I always dreamed of having a theater, but I also needed additional classroom space. I knew that a theater would be hard to support on its own, but if it could easily convert from theater to classroom and back again, that would be a space we could hopefully support. This is where Architect, Liz Kidera, entered the picture. Liz helped us with the drawing on the original Dance Center Evanston space, so she understood our needs and could help us realize the addition of a performing space. We now have a retractable seating system, an acoustically sound moveable wall to open the space between two big studios, a tech booth, state of the art light and sound equipment, a backstage area, and even a bar, so you can have a nice glass of wine before the show or during intermission.
I wanted good space, wide, deep and high, and Steve wanted good sound. Unbelievably, we got both.
Steve Rashid: Coming from different – but related – backgrounds, Béa and I had different design aspects which caught our focus. Béa, with a dance and theater background, wanted to make sure that all the seats were GREAT seats, in that sight lines and angles to view the dancers needed to be exceptional no matter where you sit. The seating system was custom designed for us, and I recall a discussion Béa had with the manufacturer about where the aisles were going to be placed and how that was going to affect where some of the seats were placed, thereby affecting viewing angles to the stage … I remember thinking, “this is something I NEVER would have considered.”
I had an educated hunch that if I brought great studio microphones into Studio5 and had the right sound system installed, we could deliver audiophile-quality sound to our audiences. Studio5 has an intimate enough feel that I aimed to make it sound almost like you are in the recording studio rather than a concert venue.
I come from an audio background, so I knew that I wanted to have excellent sound in Studio5. Often when I hear live music or see dance performances, my biggest criticism is the sound in the room. I own a recording studio, and because of some experiences I had had doing live sound in other small venues, I had an educated hunch that if I brought great studio microphones (often different types of microphones are used in the studio than on stage for live shows) into Studio5 and had the right sound system installed, we could deliver audiophile-quality sound to our audiences. Studio5 has an intimate enough feel that I aimed to make it sound almost like you are in the recording studio rather than a concert venue. I consulted with TC Furlong to get the right board, speakers, and other audio infrastructure installed, and then crossed my fingers. Turns out it works, and our audiences have been really enjoying the sound. Whew.
Johnny: As a choreographer, how do you feel about having an audience see your work in a space like Studio5?
Béa: My choreography has not yet been presented in Studio5. But I’ve danced in Studio5 and it feels great to have the audience up close and personal. I can imagine that when my choreography is presented, the audience may be able to hear my heart beating.
Johnny: What do you think is important about the work of independent companies like Cerqua Rivera in the world of Dance?
Béa: Chicago has lost several midsize independent companies in the last couple of years; Luna Negra, River North Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street2, Thodos Dance Chicago. The reasons are different for every company, but I know that finances certainly play into the decision to retire a company, or keep it going during artistic transitions. I’d like to develop an audience for dance on the North Shore which appreciates our home grown midsize companies. I also feel that our students should see live dance, and not just once a year, and not just the Nutcracker, but companies of different sizes and styles. I’ve been watching Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre develop their vision for many years, and I am excited by the growth I’ve seen in their work and their commitment to the collaborative process.
Johnny: Looking forward, what is your vision for Studio5 as a combined music and dance venue?
Béa: I never expected that Steve and I would become presenters, but here we are. Steve has been curating jazz music events in Evanston for several years, but adding a space that can also accommodate dance has really opened up the possibilities. I am hoping the future brings more collaboration between choreographers, composer, dancers, musicians and theater artists.
Steve: We look forward to doing more of what we’ve been doing: Live jazz performances and live dance. We are eager to include more performances like Cerqua Rivera that combine music and dance, we will be exploring some theater pieces, which is new for us, and we hope to build on our “Dance Through the Decades” series to have regular dance parties where everyone who is inclined can get up on our big dance floor and strut their stuff to a live band.
For more about the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Fall Concert, Alone / Together, we have a couple of other stories for you —
Here Comes Treble — Taylor Mitchell Tells Us About His New Work for Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre
PHOTOS (from top) • CRDT Dance Ensemble (foreground) and 9-piece Jazz Band (on platform) perform Between Us by Sherry Zunker and Joe Cerqua (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • CRDT dancers and musicians preview Here Comes Treble, which will debut at Alone/Together in October (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • Steve and Béa Rashid (Photo by Matt Glavin) • CRDT’s 9-piece jazz band in performance. Pictured: Pharez Whitted, Juli Wood, Stu Greenspan, CRDT Co-Founder Joe Cerqua, Tim Archbold (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • CRDT Dance Ensemble performs Here Comes Treble, with composer Dan Hesler. Choreography by Taylor Mitchell, costumes by Jordan Ross. (Photo by Dan Kasberger)