Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre 20th Anniversary AMERICAN CATRACHO Review | Multidimensional Wonderland

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre 20th Anniversary AMERICAN CATRACHO Review - Multidimensional Wonderland

If there’s one thing Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre’s 20th Anniversary Season World Premiere of American Catracho excelled in, it would most definitely be variety. The combination of live musicians, live dance in the intimate yet deep space of Studio 5 created an original, multidimensional performance not to be forgotten, at least for this reviewer. 

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Exceeds Expectations

CRDT exceeds our expectations as stunning lighting guides us through the story of Wilfredo Rivera’s American Catracho, a slang word for a person from Honduras. Rivera examines memory, struggle, identity, perception and assimilating to society in this four part journey through immigrating to this country. This show exposes the elements that connect us all as humans, a story of humanity.

A soloist to the left moves meticulously, repeating a phrase with an earnest look on her face, staring down the group across the stage from her. Another duet beside her emerges, and then they enter the group. She is left alone, facing the group. They stare each other down, executing the same rigid movements as if in a march. United in movement, the two sides are together but separate.

Blue lights flood the floor, separating the musicians set up on one side of the light and we, the audience, sit in risers opposite them. We are close enough to see beads of sweat drip and fling off of the dancers as they whirl themselves (and often each other) around the stage. Stunning duets emerge throughout each section, seamlessly detaching from the group and re-entering, picking right back up where they left off. 

The opening section felt ethereal, dreamlike as the bright white lights illuminated the dancers as if in a cloud. The light changes in the next section, bringing the dancers back down to earth from this dreamland. The dancers’ movements picked up in speed and weight as they traversed the stage. 

Then, we feel as if the dancers are under water. Blue light floods the stage again and the dancers are backlit, all together in the center of the stage facing the audience head on. With an intense focus, the dancers wave their bodies toward us, coming forward into the world anew.

This first half concludes with a solo dealing with vulnerability and identity. The dancer’s animal-like qualities and shaping of the body are deeply emotive and connected to his spirit. He begins by walking towards the audience and shedding first his shirt, then his pants, and finds himself back in the center of the stage. He whips and contorts his body into different shapes, some folding inward followed by bigger splayed motions all throughout the space. We feel the struggle. We feel the effort. We feel the exposure, the uncertainty and vulnerability of being seen completely.

The second half of the show was just as strong as the first, with Rivera giving us even more complex and multifaceted choreography in this multidimensional wonderland. 

A quartet takes the stage, sitting with their legs straight in front of them. The music pushes them through their motions, as if their bodies are ticking through time and space. Someone whoops in the audience in awe and encouragement. It’s almost as though the dance happens to the dancers with the help of the music behind them. 

Seamlessly, the other dancers join these four on stage with their own gestures. The dancers fill the stage and it feels like they’re speaking a language in a world only they know about. They connect with each other with the movement, but also move individually throughout the space, facing different directions while gesturing with this language. 

At one point, only the musicians occupy the stage. Joe Cerqua, leader of the band, sings a melody and we are drawn into another world. 

The dancers emerge in new garb--sheer navy blue gowns with ribbons wrapping up their torsos. In a straight line across the stage, every other dancer faces forward and backward. Their arms rise so their bodies look like ‘t’ shapes, silhouetted by the low lights. This grand finale to the journey is appropriately entitled Land of Dreams, as the dancers grace the stage all together. 

The depth, emotion, and humanity that lies within American Catracho is refreshing and relatable. CRDT takes us on a journey through what connects us as humans: experience, struggle, vulnerability, and identity. In this reviewer’s opinion, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre’s combination of live, original dance and music performance is not to be missed this 20th Anniversary season.


Creator and Director: Wilfredo Rivera

Original Music: Joe Cerqua, with introduction by James Sanders and “Fijate Bien” arranged by Stu Greenspan

Additional Choreography: Noelle Kayser, Christian Denice

Costume Design: Jordan Ross

Lighting Design: David Goodman-Edberg

Projection Design: Simean Carpetner

Other Collaborators: Lewis Achenbach (painter), Charin Alvarez (actor), Laura Crotte (actor), Julian Hester (actor), Cecilie Keenan (theatre artist), Ethan Kirschbaum (movement consultant), Shawn Lent (dance educator and immigration activist), Kristi Licera (movement consultant), Dr. Daniel Michaud-Novak (psychologist), Myesha-Tiara (actor)

For more about Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, visit Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre’s website.

For more about Studio5, visit Studio5’s website.

Photos by Photographer William Frederking

Read more dance reviews by dancers in the Picture This Post Round-Up, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here —

Find more Picture This Post dance reviews in the latest roundup — CHOREOGRAPHERS WE LOVE. Also, watch a short preview video here —

About the Author:

Sarah Stearn is a movement artist, native of Chicago, and graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Dance. Along with taking dance classes throughout the city, she is a dance instructor at the Irving Park YMCA and an organizer for the J e l l o Performance Series, housed at Links Hall and Elastic Arts. 

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