Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre Returns

Shelby jump Photo by Fernando Rodriguez Photography Shelby Moran Amarantos in Identity City fall 2020, costumes by Jordan Ross, lighting by Margaret Nelson, projections by Sim Carpenter; shot during October 2020 livestream from Studio5 Performing Arts Center
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With an intense focus on personal narratives, the combined talents of collective artists, and the multiple artistic languages with which we communicate, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre engages audiences in magnetic human stories at once new & deeply familiar. In our art & our artists, we are proudly & visibly multicultural, exploring the intersection of heritage, culture, and identity says Wilfredo Rivera.

Chicago Splash Magazine journalist, Debra Davy had the opportunity of speaking with Cerqua Rivera’s Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera about the ways in which the 2021/2022 season relates to previous years.

Wilfredo Rivera Photo by William Frederking CRDT Cofounder and Artistic Director Wilfredo Rivera

Speaking with Rivera, Debra learned that it requires three to four years to develop a dance.  To honor the dancers and the audience it is important to perform these works more than once.

The overriding approach to a performance brings intense focus on the personal narrative and then to explore that narrative broadly in many artistic languages- art, music, projection and dance at the intersection of heritage, culture and identity.

Identity City Photo by Fernando Rodriguez Photography Pictured: Dancers Shelby Moran Amarantos and Jesse Hoisington with CRDT Jazz Band, costumes by Jordan Ross, lighting by Margaret Nelson, projections by Sim Carpenter; shot during October 2020 livestream from Studio5 Performing Arts Center

n 2019 it was Cerqua Rivera’s 20th Anniversary and then the pandemic struck. Rivera was determined not to let either the dancers or the audience go. During that time in 2020, although many of the participants were in different states, CRDT began livestreaming new works responding to the current times & yet somehow the audience expanded.

The 2020’s season’s work was reimagined to accommodate strict covid on stage artists restrictions, such as taking “Root” (CRDT’s full ensemble suite) and structuring it for four physically distanced dancers .  This year CRDT expands the possibilities of the on stage narrative.  All of the music is original and each piece is different. 

The works are-

• SHIVER – Three dancers portraying the parts that make up the whole of a person separating from the past and moving toward growth; choreography Stephanie Martinez, music Joe Cerqua

• SOUL REMEDY – Exploration of the Aesthetic of the Cool, a culturally specific phenomenon rooted in the Black American experience; a celebration of artistic legacy without appropriation (year 1 of 2-year project); choreography Monique Haley, music Pharez Whitted

• IDENTITY CITY – A groundbreaking work unpacking how gender is felt, expressed, received, challenged (year 2 of a 4-year project); choreography-Shannon Alvis, music – Joe Cerqua.

• MOOD SWING – Our continuing response to the pandemic crisis and social justice movement; choreography Shannon Alvis, Katlin Bourgeois, Monique Haley, Eddy Ocampo, Wilfredo Rivera, music.

Joe Cerqua Photo by Fernando Rodriguez Photography Company cofounder Joe Cerqua, composer and musician, in rehearsal 2020

Joe Cerqua explains that:

Our mission for 20+ years – to apply the talents of a diverse group of collaborative artists to concerns that shape our community. Last year we only paused a few weeks to figure out how to work in and respond to a turbulent year. In 2021, our multitalented, multicultural company continues its groundbreaking, timely, moving work. #weneverquit

Celebrate our fascinating differences and inspiring common humanity in an exuberant artistic experience like no other!

Follow Cerqua Rivera on Facebook and Instagram or check out the website for the latest news.

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre was founded in 1999 to fuse dance & music to explore & celebrate contemporary society. In our art and our artists, we are proudly and visibly multicultural, exploring the intersection of heritage, culture, and identity.


– 2005-2010 – Annual Black History Concerts, DuSable Museum

– 2009 – Performance, Hyde Park Jazz Festival

– 2012 – Commissioned by / performed with Chicago Sinfonietta “Four Negro Spirituals”

– 2019 – Headlined SummerDance Celebration, Millennium Park; Premiered American Catracho,

Pharez and Juli Photo by Leni Manaa-Hoppenworth Musician and composer Pharez Whitted with fellow CRDT band member Juli Wood in performance

Auditorium Theatre

The season runs spring – fall, including a monthly interactive new work preview series called Inside/Out produced with partners across the city. The season culminates in a multi-week, multi-site fall concert series where the new work is performed by our Dance Ensemble and Jazz Band. We also perform and lead workshops in various community settings and schools. Cerqua Rivera engages nearly 10,000 people in a normal year.

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre can be found online and on Facebook – Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre on Instagram and Twitter @cerquarivera

Simone and Margaret Photo by Fernando Rodriguez Photography Dancer Simone Stevens and vocalist Margaret Murphy-Webb with the CRDT Jazz Band in Mood Swing; costumes by Jordan Ross, lighting by Margaret Nelson, projections by Sim Carpenter; shot during October 2020 livestream from Studio5 Performing Arts Center

Thank you to all the donors who make our art possible, including these organizations: The MacArthur Funds for Arts and Culture at The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Arts Work Fund – Arts for Illinois Emergency Relief Fund housed at The Chicago Community Trust, Gaylord & Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Chase, Albany Bank & Trust Company NA, The Cliff Dwellers Arts Foundation, Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund from the DeKalb Community Foundation, Anne E. Leibowitz Fund, Weinberg Family Foundation Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is grateful to the Small Business Administration and our fellow Americans for relief funds through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance Grant program, and Paycheck Protection Program.

Photos are courtesy of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre

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