On Saturday, dancers from Cerqua Rivera Dance will fill Chicago’s Theatre Building with dramatic energy and inspire the audience with their unique form of modern dance with their fall concert. The show consists of two very distinct halves. The first is a compilation of new works in celebration of Black History Month and a tribute to Miles Davis. The second, entitled “Latin Fire,” incorporates contemporary dance and Latin-inspired music to tell stories about the difficulties of immigration, living with HIV, and being a child soldier. This incredibly unique performance features a mere 11 dancers from the Rivera Dance Company, along with live musicians for some of the dances. Slideshows of photos relevant to the themes of the particular dances project behind the dancers, making the performance a truly multimedia experience
The first portion, entitled “Corner Sketches: A Tribute to Miles Davis,” demonstrates the variety of these dancers’ capabilities. They present modern and contemporary dance, typically done without footwear, to convey a story. The dancers perform in couples, solo, and in groups, all with extreme precision. In every case, they mirror each other perfectly and their movements sync impeccably with the pulse of the music.
Traditionally, Latin dance is seen as very structured, yet passionate, but Cerqua Rivera Dance has completely reshaped this conception. The dances showcased here possess quintessential Latin rhythms like that of salsa or tango, but the dancing was far from the traditional style. Sharp lines and quick footing combined with fluid hips and expressive arms are a unique take on Hispanic dance.
The dancers’ impressive talent is manifest throughout the show—every minuscule motion they make has clearly been rehearsed time and again. However, what really sets them apart is their attention to acting. Rachel Cortés, one of these elite 11, commented, “We always try to make it as real, as honest as we can when we’re performing.” While watching the dancers, it is difficult not to empathize with them—their palpable emotions radiate from their faces and their bodies. In the portion concerning children soldiers, for example, they react vividly to the sounds of gunfire, mimicking the reaction a child might have.
The chemistry and camaraderie among the dancers is also evident throughout the performance, especially when their personal space is eliminated entirely. Throughout all the pieces, the dancers perform many complicated lifts that require them to be exceptionally comfortable with their fellow dancers. “We’ve created a really open atmosphere for them to take chances,” said artistic director Wilfredo Rivera. He also commented on how the dancers are a group of friends who support each other and enjoy time together, something that was obvious watching them interact. The dancers seem extremely comfortable with each other, often mimicking very intimate situations.
In the end, Saturday night will show more than the extraordinary talent of both the dancers and directors of Cerqua Rivera. With the combination of live music and visual art, and the concentration on contemporary social issues, Cerque Rivera’s Fall Concert goes beyond turning the beat around.