Dancers move across the makeshift stage at Dovetail Studios pounding on the floor with their hands and stomping their feet in combination with the African rhythms played on drums by drummer Rob Dicke and the rest of the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre (CRDT) Jazz Band. Low to the ground explosive movements speak to the African influence that choreographer Monique Haley’s vision of incorporating her African heritage into her new work “ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho”
Haley presented her work in progress for Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre at Dovetail Studios as part of CRDT’s Inside/Out series. The small audience size allowed for open discussion among audience members and artists as Haley continues to work on her new piece.
The Beginning of the Body is Spirit
The title of Haley’s work “ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho” means the beginning of the body is spirit. One of the ideas that Haley is interested in exploring in her new work for CRDT is the connection between the spirit and body in dance. Why do dancers dance? Does the movement come from a deeper place within, and how can we connect to that place?
In the work in progress, the dancers express their individuality through the choreography, putting their own personalities on Haley’s movements. Haley’s choreography feels primal and sensual, movements such as shaking of the hands and explosive jumps come from deep within the dancers soul.
Connection to Self and Community
“ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho” also features a variety of solo moments for each dancer as well as duets and larger group sections. Another part of Haley’s vision is to convey not only the dancers connecting to their own spirits but also to connect with the other dancers in the ensemble and create a sense of community among the group.
Throughout the piece, the dancers manipulate each other’s body parts through partnering lifts and weight sharing. When the dancers come together in duets they move as one and support each other’s weight in a compassionate and caring way.
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Presents This as a Work in Progress
Inside/Out only showed a portion of what Haley’s piece will become. Haley will continue to choreograph “ROOT: mwanzo wa mwili ni roho” and work with CRDT founder Joe Cerqua on the music for the piece over the next year and the piece will make it’s premiere on stage in the 2019-2020 season.
The final moments of Inside/Out served as a time for feedback from the audience so Haley could hear what the audience got from the piece so far and she can continue to work and improve. This also speaks to the idea of community that Haley hopes to convey in her piece, as well as the identity of CRDT as a dance company in Chicago.
CRDT will present two more Inside/Out events in the upcoming months, the first on August 23 at Harold Washington Library and the second on September 20 at the Fine Arts Building, Curtiss Hall.
Visit Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre’s website for updates on upcoming events and to purchase tickets.
Photo credit: Dan Kasberger
About the Author:
Hayley Ross graduated from Ohio University in 2016 with degrees in Dance and Journalism. Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Hayley began dancing at the age of four. She has studied Ballet, Pointe, Modern, Jazz, Contemporary, and African dance and regularly can be found taking dance and Pilates at Chicago's Lou Conte Dance Studio. Hayley has completed internships at CityScene Media Group, OhioDance, the Chautauqua Institution, and American Dance Festival. She currently works in the Marketing department at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as the Marketing Manager. Learn more about Hayley at hayleyross.weebly.com