That would seem to be a alot for one arts organization, or for any creative community. But it’s really just the beginning for Cerqua Rivera
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is not quite like anything else that we can think of.
It’s certainly a Dance Company, and by any standard an excellent one, and the Company has attracted an astonishing group of superb dance artists — Brennen Rentaria, who is also serving as the Company’s Rehearsal Director, Brianna Arthur, Shelby Moran, Richard Pena, Sara Schroerlucke, Rachel Spies, Kristen Vasilakos, and Carson VonFeldt. That’s only part of Cerqua Rivera, though; CRDT is also a fearlessly imaginative musical ensemble. Led by Joe Cerqua, there is a musical depth to CRDT that fully balances the choreographic depth brought by Artistic Director (and along with Cerqua, one of Cerqua’s co-founders) Wilfredo Rivera.
That would seem to be a alot for one arts organization, or for any creative community. But it’s really just the beginning for Cerqua Rivera, because the varied and intricate interactions between all of these gifted, driven talents leads to dimension after dimension of creative richness. Beyond the multiple creative constructions that arise in a dance company that is also a band, Cerqua Rivera goes out of its way, way out of its way, to find even more avenues of creative collaboration.
In 2018, many of these will be on display as CRDT’s season unfolds. The Company is creating three major new works, and continuing the development of Rivera’s collaboration with composer Clarice Assad. On Thursday, April 19 they’ll present the first of their excellent Inside/Out series, where the Company prepares very accessible previews and inside looks at the development of their work.
To get us ready for their Company Showcase and Sneak Preview on Thursday, April 17 (at Old Town School of Folk Music’s Szold Hall), we asked both Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera and CRDT Executive Director to give us an even more inside look at how Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre looks at their world. Here we go:
CRDT is a dance and music ensemble that creates eclectic, diverse performance pieces, pieces that are reflective of the varied mix that makes up our urban interactions and experiences
Johnny Nevin: Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is all about people, about the people whose collaboration shapes your innovative work, about the people of your audience and how you connect with them. It’s also all about the stories of people’s lives that inspire so many of the subjects that you explore. Can you tell us a little about the people who will be shaping the Dance side of your Dance and Music creations this year?
Wilfredo Rivera: CRDT is a dance and music ensemble that creates eclectic, diverse performance pieces, pieces that are reflective of the varied mix that makes up our urban interactions and experiences. It’s a virtual artistic experience that wraps — literally engulfs — the audience, visually and audibly. The music and dance travel, move, and morph through composed and improvised components. The company’s work is a reflection of life’s flows and cycles — how we as people interact with one another, at times colliding, at times mixing and adjusting with each other. The CRDT immersed concert experience makes the audience feel as if they are part of the performance, not mere observers. Audiences talk about being on the edge of their seats, about being invested in the individual artists and the onstage interactions, and about discovering a personal connection to the narrative.
On the choreography end; a vital part of our mission is to contribute to the professional development and advancement of start up and mid-career choreographers. In particular, we serve as a creative haven for artists interested in multi-art collaborative work. Monique Haley and Joshua Ishmon, who are working with us this year, are both at exciting and innovative junctures in honing a distinct creative and performance methodology. I’m thrilled to partner CRDT with them in this creative journey.
Here’s a CRDT development time line: It takes tremendous care and cultivation to create the CRDT art; one that is both thoughtful and bold. From finalizing the leading artists, to conception, creation, previews and full production — it’s a full a year of creative engagement for composers, choreographers, performers and the design team. There is of course, the fundraising that goes hand in hand — every step of the way — to making this vibrant and relevant work possible throughout the year. We are proud to contribute to the Chicago artistic and financial ecosystem. We not only employ dozens of artists — allowing them to professionally engage with Chicagoans, but we are also part of the art traffic generated at our art partners’ locations, all dispersed through out the city: from Hyde Park to Evanston.
Johnny Nevin: And on the Music side, can you give us a look at how you put together such a musically intensive dance experience, and who the people are who will do that this year?
… we are committed to building a narrative and exploring a theme with all the texture and richness it deserves.
Catherine Painter: The best way to learn and experience how we put together such musically intensive works is to join us for one of our Inside/Out events, which run from June through September (details on cerquarivera.org). That is specifically why we launched Inside/Out in 2015 – to give people a chance to get inside our company and our unique multidisciplinary collaborations.
In short, we are committed to building a narrative and exploring a theme with all the texture and richness it deserves. From our founding, we have known that the complicated issues that our society wrestles with are too deep for a single art form. Thus, we create new music and dance in tandem as the core of our work, and then layer visual art and theatre design (costumes, lights, etc.) to add even more storytelling elements.
Our work is ongoing, and we are always seeking out and building relationships with artists whom we think could contribute to and thrive in our collaborative, interactive environment. Every winter, though, we recruit the specific lead artists – generally teams of composers and choreographers – who will create the coming season’s major new works. One or the other artist brings a concept to the company, and from November to March our Artistic Director Wilfredo works with them to begin fleshing out that idea. There are often conference calls to share music and movement ideas and samples, and the artists and art forms inform one another. Then throughout the season our jazz band and dance ensemble, along with the lead choreographers and composers, work together to develop and bring these pieces to life.
From our founding, we have known that the complicated issues that our society wrestles with are too deep for a single art form. Thus, we create new music and dance in tandem as the core of our work,
We would say that our work in performance is often felt as “musically intense” for a few reasons. First, not only do we have both musicians and dancers performing live, but our musicians are on stage with the dancers. Sometimes they even interact directly as they perform. That is unusual. People might be used to – at best – musicians below or off stage during a “dance concert.”
Second, our musicians are all professional Chicago jazz musicians, and they play with boldness and passion. The volume and energy of the band, and the way our dancers feed off and reflect that energy, really draws audiences in.
Finally, we think there is a unique fusion of art forms that occurs in the collaborative, nurturing culture of our company. Music composed specifically with and for movement is integrated with it in a way that a musical selection from a library simply isn’t. The music is an integral part of the stories we tell and the emotional journeys we map for audiences.
The Cerqua Rivera Company Showcase & Sneak Preview take place on Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 7pm, at The Old Town School of Folk Music’s Szold Hall. What can you expect? An excerpt from Sin Fronteras, Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera’s 2017 collaboration with Grammy nominated composer Clarice Assad, commissioned by Chicago Sinfonietta – a musical journey across Central and Latin America and a kinetic celebration of diversity and community. And — an excerpt from American Catracho – 2018 will be Wilfredo Rivera’s third year collaborating with Joe Cerqua on this expansive exploration of an immigrant’s journey. Catch up with 2017’s section, which considered immigrants recovering from the crossing and stepping foot in a new home land. And, Previews of new compositions by Chicago Youth Symphony Jazz Director Pharez Whitted and composer and musician Joe Cerqua. Hear what has inspired them so far and where they, and their collaborating choreographers Joshua Ishmon and Monique Haley, plan to go next. And yes, live improvisation by the company’s jazz band – get a taste of their unique collaborative, improvisational style right before your eyes. Tickets are available online from The Old Town School of Folk Music.
PHOTOS (from top):Sin Fronteras by Wilfredo Rivera and Clarice Assad in concert, October 2017.
Pictured: musicians Joe Cerqua and Tim Archbold, dancers Quincie Bean and Brennen Renteria (Photo by Dan Kasberger) (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • Sin Fronteras by Wilfredo Rivera and Clarice Assad in concert, October 2017. Pictured: musicians Joe Cerqua and Tim Archbold, dancers Quincie Bean and Brennen Renteria (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • Legendary Chicago jazz trumpeter Pharez Whitted in performance with Cerqua Rivera fall 2017. (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • Here Comes Treble by 2017 CRDT Choreography Fellow Taylor Mitchell and Dan Hesler in concert, October 2017. Pictured: musicians Pharez Whitted, Stu Greenspan and Joe Cerqua*; dancers Quincie Bean, Jordan Colovos and Richard Pena* * artists at forefront (Photo by Dan Kapsberger) • Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis in concert October 2016. Pictured: Daniel Chenoweth and Federica Cocom (Photo by Dan Kasberger) • Composer and multi-instrumentalist Joe Cerqua in performance fall 2017. (Photo by Dan Kasberberger)