PRE-View: Joshua Ishmon’s “The Process Takes a Lifetime” at Cerqua Rivera’s Inside/Out
The subject is a new work called The Process Takes a Lifetime, an exceptionally rich and well-thought out story …
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theater has been on a relentless build-up to their 2018 Fall Concert Series since last April. It’s something they’ve been doing for years, a very carefully planned series of monthly presentations — they call them Inside / Out — that bring their audience, their performers, and the creators of their upcoming works together. The settings are informal but the results always informative, an engaging blend of discussion and performance. The last of the 2018 Inside / Out series takes place on Thursday, September 20th at 7pm at Chicago’s Fine Arts Building (Curtiss Hall — 10th floor, 410 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago), and it promises to be a great one.
The subject is a new work called The Process Takes a Lifetime, an exceptionally rich and well-thought out story by choreographer Joshua Ishmon and — in keeping with Cerqua Rivera’s trademark practice of pairing great choreographers with great composers — an original score by Pharez Whitted. “I am thrilled to welcome Joshua Ishmon as this year’s CRDT Choreography Fellow,” CRDT Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera says. “Joshua is a company member of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, a Chicago Dancemakers Forum artist, and The Reader’s Choreographer of the Year in 2017. He is collaborating with another powerhouse – jazz director of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestra and legendary trumpeter Pharez Whitted. You may remember Pharez from our 2016 piece Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis. This year, he’s both performing and composing.”
Of course DancerMusic wanted to find out more about what Joshua Ishmon, Pharez Whitted, and Cerqua Rivera have created, so we asked Joshua Ishmon if he would give us some insight into The Process Takes a Lifetime. Here’s what he told us:
The process of creating the piece involves shaping every aspect of these characters with the dancers portraying them, developing the interactions to show love, conflict, manipulation, insecurity, and friendship
Johnny Nevin: I wish everybody reading this could have heard our conversation, when you were telling Kristi Licera and I about your new work The Process Takes a Lifetime. The construction of the work is so carefully thought-out, and so emblematic of how choreography can address ideas through story, that we’re really looking forward to hearing more about it, and especially to seeing it. Can you tell us a little of your thoughts in making the piece, about the cast and their interactions, and about how you have imagined these interactions in your choreography?
Joshua Ishmon: Absolutely. The cast is comprised of five characters in what has evolved into a familial archetype: The Elder (the figurehead of the family, who’s confidently “Old School” in their approach to life) and their three children — the Hustler (the kid who will do whatever necessary to get by, regardless of if it’s healthy for them long-term), The Bougie (who has never worked for anything, and primarily desires lavish and luxury by manipulating others), and The Child. The Child is the youngest of the siblings (and eventually our lead character), whose impressionable nature makes them take on the unhealthy traits of others, until they learn to better sift through their influences via personal accountability and evaluation. Lastly, there’s the person we call The Young Progressive, aka YP. The YP is the contrarian neighbor kid who grows up with more revolutionary perspectives, and is the childhood best friend of The Child.
The process of creating the piece involves shaping every aspect of these characters with the dancers portraying them, developing the interactions to show love, conflict, manipulation, insecurity, and friendship, which evolves into enamorment and evolution.
The process of enduring that journey of discovery is how I wanted to explore the development and constant evolution of people …
Johnny: Cerqua Rivera describes their 2018 Season, including the 2018 Fall Concert Series, as being “an exploration of Identity – who we are and how we got this way”. How are these ideas reflected in The Process Takes a Lifetime — in your thoughts in creating it, and in its realization, both with the original score by Pharez Whitted, and in the performances of the Cerqua Rivera dancers?
Joshua: The story is a series of interactions between the characters challenging each other’s “approach to living”, or what I refer to as “rituals and practices”. The youngest sibling is the only one who doesn’t challenge anyone, but remains impressionable until they realize that they’ve never figured out who they are and what they believe in for themself.
The process of enduring that journey of discovery is how I wanted to explore the development and constant evolution of people when they challenge their influences to solidify their foundations for themself. The Elder is steadfast in their practices because they were heavily conditioned to be that way by their parents before them. Meanwhile, the older siblings navigate their lives in constant pursuit of validation via materialism. The YP respects the consistency of the Elder, but disagrees with the archaic approach. The Child, however, is but a sponge soaking up the mentalities of everyone in their family, until they’re wrought with insecurity when realizing that none of their thoughts and beliefs are their own. Overcoming these hurdles takes honesty, commitment and … a lifetime.
Overcoming these hurdles takes honesty, commitment and … a lifetime.
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre will present Inside/Out With Pharez Whitted & Joshua Ishmon on Thursday, September 20th at 7pm. The program lasts an hour, and will be presented in the Fine Arts Building’s Curtiss Hall ( on the 10th floor), 410 S Michigan Avenue, Chicago. Tickets are available online from Eventbrite.
PHOTOS (from top): Joshua Ishmon (Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth) • Pharez Whitted and Joshua Ishmon (Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth) • Briana Arthur and Pharez Whitted (Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth) • Pharez Whitted (Photo by Dan Kasberger)