CERQUA RIVERA DANCE THEATRE review-25th anniversary program

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On May 17, 18, and 19, 2024Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre (CRDT) presented its 2024 Spring Concert Series, Open Up, Lean In, Come Together, celebrating its 25th Anniversary at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. A fully realized program of music, dance and art, it piqued and satisfied the aesthetic sensibilities of the attentive, responsive audience.

 The first half of the dance concert, before the intermission, consisted of an excerpt from Act 1 of American Catracho, 2019, created and directed by Cofounder Wilfredo Rivera with additional choreography by Noelle Kayser and Christian Denice. This was a vivid portrayal of combined artwork, set to strong composition, and clothed in site-specific/scenic costumery. Opening with 3 featured musicians out on the stage with the troupe, Cofounder Joe Cerqua and the band rear stage, the stirring and lovely art projections behind, the effect was that of a multi-creative surround-sound of vibrant stimulus. 


CRDT told a story in aurally rich enhanced movement; the 10 diversely ranged skilled athletes presenting a modern dance vision of the struggles of people attempting to flee a native land to begin anew. They are individually and collectively un-homed, displaced, rehomed; they are pioneer children frightened, exhausted and finally exhilarated. Discomposed and restructured as they move singly, come together in pairs, always regrouping on wings of grace.

The second half of the dance concert was comprised of danceworks from Stories from the West Side, with one segment from 2022 and three 2024 world premieres; musical interludes; and the world premiere of the restructured Lágrimas Negras, 2013. These pieces were choreographed by Katlin Bourgeois, Michelle Manzanales, Shannon Alvis and Wilfredo Rivera.

TETHER by Katlin Bourgeois; danced by CERQUA RIVERA DANCE THEATRE

With a body aesthetic born of the ballet, crafted of modern and jazz moves, the dancers flowed forth in joy, spinning tales of human bonds that free the spirit from bondage- searching for home; the connectedness of teachers, mentors and protegees; playing as children in natural settings. And always and forever, the spiritual warmth of acknowledging and embracing our cultural heritage. 

The final piece was a happy celebration of Latin sensibility, a universal mambo-samba-esque tribute to social dancing, with island and inland tunes. The dancers were truly imbued with delight, and so was the audience.

Joe Cerqua performing with The Jazz Orchestra

Throughout the event, the sights and sounds of flowing water provided a mystical element. All the works were set to jazzy hot music, a distinctly strong combination of fluid dance moves and the virtuoso musical arrangements, compositions and proficiency of this group of fine musicians. In Cerqua’s gravelley-sweet voice, Paul Simon’s Homeward Bound, and the instrumental interlude of Eddie Palmieri’s Bomba De Corazón, both beautifully arranged by Stu Greenspan, refreshed the sensibilities.

In an extended interview on the eve of the Anniversary Celebrations, Wilfredo Rivera referred to the past pertinent quarter century as “25 years of personal storytelling”, also noting that he had recently been made an American citizen. It is his own sincere and successful quest as a Honduran (“catracho”) that incepted the 4-year long creative journey of the first piece. The next choices from “Tales” similarly were crafted over time and with extensive collaboration of other artists. Rivera refers to the work of CRDT as “A coming to fruition of motivation, inspiration and ultimate reward”.

He mused that “As the Company evolved, the ingredients, drawn from all the personnel involved, and from their conjoint and congruent life-sagas, became a more and ever more intricate evolution of form, purpose and artistic content”. He looks forward to community outreach and the further extension of the Company into “A bi-level amalgam, restructuring the training program into- in effect- CRDT 1 and CRDT 2, a natural outgrowth of our innovative approach to expanding the craft.”

Bruno Salgado, CERQUA RIVERA featured dancer, performing in AMERICAN CATRACHO

A big shout-out to the Dance Ensemble: Brennen Renteria, Catie Ambrecht, Delphine Chang, Bennet Cullen, Sydney Jones, Nick Lampson, Bruno Salgado and Michelle Skiba as well as much encouragement to Trainees Caitlin Clark and Maggie O’Gorman.`                                                             

All music performed by Cofounder Composer/musician Joe Cerqua; Musical Director/musician Stu Greenspan; Composer/violin James Sanders; keyboardist Kevin O’Connell and The Jazz Orchestra made up of Timothy Archbold, cello; Paul Cotton, percussion; Dan Hesler, reeds; Leandro Lopez Varady, keyboard; José Ormaza, drums; Felipe Tobar, violin; and Composer/vocalist/saxophone Juli Wood.

Kudos to the design team including Jordan Ross/costume and props; Nathan Tomlinson/lighting; and Sim Carpenter/projections. Special thanks to CRDT Managing Director Catherine Painter.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos by Andrew Weeks

Wilfredo Rivera, Cofounder and Choreographer, CERQUA RIVERA DANCE THEATRE, flanked by his parents, Wilfredo and Yolanda Rivera; photo by Michelle Reid

To arrange donations, for information and for tickets to all the great programming of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, go to www.cerquarivera.org


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