Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre 20th ANNIVERSARY SHOWCASE Review — 2984FRAN

2 means you jump…
9 but through the air as you reach forward
8 jump back with hands overhead
and then 4 is a jazz square..
now, add F-R-A-N, also a series of steps that transform numbers and letters into DANCE!!…

That was the moves by two Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre (CRDT) lead dancers accompanied by two audience volunteers, showing us how their collaborative work comes to be—inspired by narratives, poems, case studies and even numbers.  In just minutes CRDT opened the universe of choreography to the near capacity crowd in the Old Town School of Music performance space.

It was another reminder of how outstanding CRDT is in opening the door to contemporary dance, music and art to all communities.  By this reviewer’s lights, no other dance troupe comes close.  Perhaps their only competitor for mantle of best-in-making-art-accessible might be Chicago Sinfonietta, which is actually one of CRDT’s sometimes collaborators.

CRDT’s effortless proffer of sophisticated dance and music collaborations to a WIDE Chicago audience is apparent.  It comes as no surprise to watch CRDT Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera beam as he touts that this year’s programming will take them to every corner of the city.  (See calendar below).

But it did surprise when he pirouetted in from the back door, wearing a red hat for color, to do the introduction of the night’s program.  His moves are the real intro—announcing, “Get Ready to Enjoy”.

It starts with live music – seven musicians against the back wall, a few of whom get up and mingle with the dancers on the floor at one point, in what seems to be a CRDT trademark.  It’s jazz, Latin jazz, new or percussion pure as the dance requires.

Up first was the third year iteration of Catracho, which is slang for someone from Honduras.  Rivera explains that there is a push to make this piece speak to more global experiences beyond its origins in his personal biography.  At times the hunched dancers’ bodies let us know they are being beaten down by life.  This followed the spoken words opener talking about being bilingual, or more accurately, bicultural.   Four dancers then sit hip-to-hip and move heads, arms, legs in interlocked fashion that comes to feel like comic relief as they become a fun-to-watch piece of centipede.

Overall, it struck this reviewer that every add-on to Catracho is moving it more and more into the contemporary dance equivalent of a story ballet—except this one being about the immigration and related headlines of our times.  And, many returnees could also similarly see how much tighter the CRDT ensemble as a whole moves, and how each of the dancers seems to be gaining in athleticism and grace.  BRAVO! BRAVA!

With this as frame, the work-in-progress early peek at Place Between Earth & Sky--  choreographed by Shannon Alvis (soon to be seen in Lyric’s West Side Story) with an original score by composer Clarice Assad, whose first collaboration with CRDT was showcased by Chicago Sinfonietta—was particularly exciting.  How are they going to finesse this early work that already feels so completed? An homage to Native American spirituality, we learned in the short pre-talk that it showcases how Assad is learning to read Alvis’ movement vocabulary built into this piece.

Choreographer Monique Haley’s Root: mwanzo wa mwili ni noho, snagged us into watching how the dancers’ were pulled to earth and up to the skies as the African dance moves ever abstracted from their drum-synced launch.

Only an hour?  Yes. These showcase performances are teasers of this 20th anniversary year.  See the full schedule of performances below.


Dance Ensemble: Briana Arthur, Shelby Moran, Joe Musiel, Brennen Renteria, Fernando Rodriguez, Rachel Spies, Kristen Vasilakos, Carson VonFeldt

Apprentices: Ross Lindhout, Lucy Pierson

Trainees: Riley Cornacchini, Ryan Schwaar

Jazz Band (tonight’s artists): Stu Greenspan (Music Director, guitar/bass),  Jack Cassidy* (trumpet), Paul Cotton (percussion), Rob Dicke (drums), Dan Hesler (woodwinds), Kevin O’Connell (keyboards), Felipe Tobar (violin)                    * Guest Artist

Lighting and Production Stage Manager: David Goodman-Edberg

Creative Team:

American Catracho (part 3) – Jaula De Oro (Golden Cage)
(2018, excerpts)
Concept and Direction Wilfredo Rivera
Choreography: Noelle Kayser
Composition: Joe Cerqua
Costumes: Jordan Ross

Walkin’ from Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis
(2016, excerpt)
Composition: Miles Davis
Arrangement: Stu Greenspan
CRDT Jazz Band

Place Between Earth & Sky (2019, work in process)
Choreography: Shannon Alvis
Composition: Clarice Assad

ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho (2018 excerpts, work in process)
Choreography: Monique Haley
Composition: Joe Cerqua
Costumes: Jordan Ross

When and Where:

CRDT Inside/Out

  •  6/26 – 7 pm; Studio 5 in Evanston
  • 7/11 – 7 pm; Dovetail Studios
  • 8/15 – 7 pm: Dovetail Studios


September 27 & 28 8 PM; Studio5
  • October 4 7:30 pm; Auditorium Theatre
  • October 26 7:30 pm; Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts –

Educational and Community Events:

  •   April 26 – Student Matinee, Old Town School of Folk Music
  •   April 28 – Family Event, Skokie Library
  •   May 15 – Student Matinee, Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts
  •  June 30 – Jazz Institute of Chicago Concert,  Reva & David Logan Center for the Arts

For more information and for tickets, visit the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre website.

Photos by William Frederking.


Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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