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
Now on the cusp of their twentieth anniversary season, CRDT's success is due largely in part to the consistently strong choices of Artistic Director and Co-founder Wilfredo Rivera. As from the beginning, Wilfredo's passion, creativity, and commitment to artistic collaboration continue to lead the company to new performance venues, new audiences, and new creative projects that push the boundaries of both the individual artist and the ensemble as a whole. Behind the scenes, there is another person integral to the success and growth of Cerqua Rivera - Executive Director Catherine Painter. For the last five years, Catherine has worked alongside the artistic team at CRDT to ensure that their unique mixture of dance and live music can reach as many communities as possible. The work and thought she has put behind each and every choice for Cerqua Rivera culminated last year in the company's first ever three-venue tour of Chicago. This year's Fall Concert Series placed CRDT back to the same three venues: the series opened in Evanston, traveled down to Lakeview, and will soon close in Hyde Park. The big difference is the program has already made a much bigger splash than in the previous season, and there's still one performance to go. DancerMusic's Kristi Licera caught up with Catherine to learn more about Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and the choices they continue to make that create the enriching experience the Fall Concert Series offers their audiences. Here's what Catherine told us:
These days, it seems that you have all the entertainment you need at your fingertips. Wherever you go, you are sure to see people enraptured by their mobile devices, scrolling through videos on social media or streaming their favorite TV shows. There is no shortage of convenient entertainment, which certainly creates problems for those involved in the performing arts. So, how do you begin to compete with convenience and draw an audience into the theater? If you are Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, you have found a solution – create a unique concert dance experience coupled with a live jazz band.
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre has been growing like a wildflower in the past few years. They have established a unique and resonant identity that has captivated Chicago dance audiences. With such uninhibited growth, the advent of new roles within the company, such as a Rehearsal Director, became paramount. That is where our friend Brennen Renteria comes in, a veteran company member with CRDT and now Rehearsal Director too. Both on stage and off he is leading the company into their Fall concert series, “My Past / Our Present”, which will be performed in three Chicago locations this October (Oct 5-6 at 8pm at Studio5, Oct 19-20 at 7pm at Links Hall, and Oct 27 at 7:30pm at The Logan Center. The series features some very exciting collaborations, and a new addition to the American Catracho suite by artistic directors Wilfredo Rivera and Joe Cerqua. The catracho spirit is very much alive in CRDT’s Rehearsal Director Brennen Renteria. He shared with DancerMusic some beautiful insights into his role with the company and why he has so much love and pride for the work he does with Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre. Here's what he told us:
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, 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. Of course DancerMusic wanted to find out more, so we asked Joshua Ishmon if he would give us some insight into The Process Takes a Lifetime. Here's what he told us:
There can't be too many things in Dance more complicated, more challenging, or more promising than the collaboration between choreographer and composer. But there probably aren't too many people in Dance or Music better able to tell us about the mysteries of this process than Joe Cerqua. Cerqua is the Co-Founder of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, and at Cerqua Rivera, dance and music are richly and relentlessly interwoven in everything the Company even thinks about. We thought this would be perfect time to ask Joe to tell us about working with Sherry Zunker on "Between Us", which Cerqua Rivera will perform at Dance for Life 2018. Oh yeah, we also asked him to give us a quick look at the new piece he's working on with Monique Haley. Here's what he told us:
Let's paint a picture of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre's Inside/Out: Ameican Catracho. In the foreground of the picture is Cerqua Rivera's performance on Wednesday, June 20th at 7pm, at Evanston's beautiful new dance and music venue Studio5. There Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera, CRDT Co-founder Joe Cerqua, and other participants in the creative process will offer a look into the making of American Catracho, the large-scale work that Rivera launched in 2016, and which will be completed this year. American Catracho explores the experience of immigrants and refugees who, like Rivera himself, venture to leave what they know to find a new life in a new land. It's been a major, three year project for the Company, and although there's a lot in the foreground, there's even more in the background. Taken all together, it turns the whole picture into a kind of magic painting, because each time you look closely at what is in the background, what you see in the foreground will change. Knowing that, we asked Noelle Kayser to give us even more background on the process of making American Catracho, and here's what she told us.
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. That's only part of Cerqua Rivera, thought; 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. 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:
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.
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre opens its fall concert series, "Alone/Together", at Links Hall, October 5 - 7. DancerMusic's Kristi Licera has been keeping up with the artists at CRDT throughout the season. See what she has learned about this creative, mind-opening evening of dance: