Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Opens with Waltzing Matilda
With a soulful voice, the male vocalist, the Joe Cerqua of the dance troupe’s name, gave a strong and compelling performance. Though his voice was clear, it was hard to keep focus on the lyrics. Those lyrics became background to the more compelling communications from the three dancers’ bodies – Taylor Mitchell, Madison Rose Horn, and Miranda Borkan— dancing to Waltzing Matilda, choreographed by Wilfredo Rivera in 2016.
Their torsos arched and rolled into new moving poses with arms often reaching over or wide. The moves showed us the affect of the song lyrics and tune better than the words themselves.
We were pulled into the feeling of the song so completely that when the three dancers melded into an ensemble moving as a piece it almost startled to be brought back from an emotional experience of the moves into a more intellectual register of the visuals.
This strong opening was followed by excerpts of a work-in-progress called American Catracho. (Music composition: Joe Cerqua; Choreography: Wilfredo Rivera; and Movement Collaborator: Noelle Kayseer.) Rivera introduced this work explaining its origin as his. Catracho means Honduran. His parents had left their lives in Honduras behind to make the long journey to America to start new lives—and especially a fresh start for Wilfredo and his sister.
Films in the background show the vantage point of one of the many children now leaving Central America atop trains to escape the murderous drug cartels. We hear the menacing sounds of helicopters carrying immigration agents looking to make a bust. We see desert landscapes where we know so many have died.
The dancers are running in angles and then become the train. One seems to be a corpse. We see struggle. We see survival. And as Movement Collaborator Noelle Kayser explains, work will continue on this piece with hopes of embodying in the choreography the effects of these perilous journeys and transplanted realities within the immigrants’ bodies and how they move.
Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis
The last work in this season kickoff, danced to Miles Davis music played live, displayed what seems to be THE signature of Cerqua Rivera’s choreography. These choreographers -- Monique Haley; Raphaelle Ziemba; and Marc Macaranas —bottle the affect of the music, channeling it into feeling-filled moves to telegraph the emotional content of the score.
Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis projects images of the famed jazz musician, himself in poses that seem like choreographed moments. Meanwhile the trumpet player strolls amidst the dancers who each seem to be taking music phrases he blows their way to make them visceral moving emotions.
This was the blurry line between structure and improvisation that Rivera had told us Cerqua Rivera is hoping to capture in its choreography. We were watching Miles Davis’ music go from live to LIVE.
Previews of what’s to come
How perfect that what followed was a short sample of the highly emotive Vent choreographed by Sherry Zunker in 1998 for the River North Dance Company. Zunker and Rivera have shared history that goes back to River North Dance days. Zunker then shared that this is the launch point for a re-do that she and Rivera are collaborating on and that will be premiered on June 29- with updated costumes, and a live singer and band per another Cerqua Rivera signature.
Take a look at this sizzling video for a teaser of what is to come. ("Vent" from award-winning TV Special: River North Rising by HMS Media. Dancers: Stephanie Martinez & Sara Bibik)
Zunker and Rivera’s collaboraton is one of eight upcoming Cerqua Rivera performances that were being introduced by this season teaser and that you can find more information about on the Cerqua Rivera Dance Troupe website (www.cerquarivera.org)
After hearing dancer/choreographer Taylor Mitchell talk about his clown training and premise of too many conductors trying to lead at once in his upcoming work, this writer also made a calendar note of the August 10 performance.
Picture this Post will also be showcasing preparations for an upcoming Chicago Sinfonietta and Cerqua Rivera collaboration in the fall. Stay tuned to Picture this Post’s dance pages for photo essay previews showing how this dance collaboration comes to life.
Photos: Dan Kasberger