Chicago Theatre Review
Inaside and Cirqua Rivera unite for a night of “Constant Motion”
Dynamic dance collaboration by two groups to keep on your radar
Inaside Chicago Dance and Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre
Harris Theater, Chicago
September 24, 2011
Review by Darcy Rose Coussens
Two different companies. Two mission statements. Two acts. One satisfying and heartening night of dancing at the Harris Theater. This weekend, Inaside Chicago Dance and Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre had the opportunity to collaborate and perform at the Harris Theatre near Millennium Park in Chicago. Recognized as one of Chicago’s finest venues for dance performance, this space is usually out of the budget for these professional, not-for-profit companies. However, the MetLife Foundation has awarded a grant to Dance/USA to support New Stages for Dance pilot programs in Chicago, San Francisco, and for the third year in Philadelphia. Through these programs, the cost of venues such as the Harris is subsidized, allowing these companies more exposure.
The performance was a success, especially in that it promoted two companies with a lot to offer. The first act was made up of several different pieces by Inaside. The jazz dance company opened with an exciting swing number full of seamless partnering that will make you want to head out to the Green Mill and try some yourself. I didn’t feel a blast from the past, though– the four-part piece had a contemporary feel that Inaside maintained throughout the entire act. Their pieces varied in style, and they also allowed their youth ensemble to perform. I believe my younger self would have been motivated by both the company and the youth ensemble, because their styles were familiar enough to be accessible, while still experimental and artistic.
Inaside left me with an impression of sunshine between their bright dresses and music that could have been the soundtrack to a romantic comedy. Most importantly, they all smile! I found it extremely refreshing to see dancers enjoy themselves instead of being serious artists, and it certainly helped the audience enjoy them, as well. At times the choreography felt more fit for TV’s “So You Think You Can Dance” than the Harris, but I mostly found it to creatively make use of space and explore partnership.
The second act was Cerqua Rivera’s, and their first number snapped me to attention. Eddy Ocampo choreographed a riveting, political piece juxtaposing the concept of home with that of war. This included projections of children’s drawings of houses and photographs of child soldiers all over the world. These were accompanied by gunshots over the music and the dancers’ disturbing but impressive interpretation of play and self-exploration in a frightening setting.
Their opening number set a very high standard that took the show to an entirely new level, and they definitely lived up to it in all following pieces. A collaboration between acclaimed musician and composer Joe Cerqua and Artistic Director/choreographer Wilfredo Rivera, this company features an excellent nine-piece band with additional vocalists. The live music infused the performance with energy and a quality of style for each piece, and several fantastic soloists were featured. The company truly accomplishes the diversity and representation of different cultures they declare in their mission statement while allowing for beautiful choreography. In each number, however different the style, they establish a vocabulary of movement, which is important in creating the world of each piece. This is a company I would jump at the chance to see again.
Dance/USA’s New Stages for Dance programs are clearly a wonderful idea, and it is fortunate for Chicago that the MetLife Foundation is funding the exposure of groups like these. The numbers were somewhat brief, which allowed both companies to show off many styles of their repertoire and the audience to digest and really appreciate what they saw. It also gave the musicians of the second act their own moments, as they played interludes between each piece. The finale was comprised of both companies and included selected repetition from different numbers, which tied the show together nicely. Inaside and Cerqua Rivera are very different types of companies, but both made a great impression. Although perhaps not entirely polished, Inaside Dance Chicago’s budding youth and blossoming company achieved a delightful performance of varied jazz styles. Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is a company in full bloom, with outstanding dancers, choreographers, and musicians. This really was a night of constant motion, but it was also a night of beauty, humor, and a celebration of music and dance in all its styles.