Live review | Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre | “New Works”

  • Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre

  • CRDT member Dustin Crumbaugh

  • CRDT�s Raphaelle Ziemba, Joey Schumann and Nicole Sebastian-Betts, from left

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre

Fusing music, dance and visual art has been a hallmark of Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre since its founding in 1996 by composer Joe Cerqua, choreographer Wilfredo Rivera, and muralist Matt Lamb. True to form, the group’s one-night-only presentation of “New Works” on June 18 was a veritable feast for the senses.

The evening featured pre- and post-show receptions to complement the performance’s varied flavors, with crisp, chilled cocktails and a display of a selection of Lamb’s vividly textured paintings. [node:215829 link=Hubbard Street Dance Center;]’s spacious Studio A was the starkly intimate setting for the showcase of original works by CRDT’s own Josh Pawelk and Raphaelle Ziemba, and by guest artists Mei Kuang Chen, [node:7553369 link=Sarah C. Fuller;] and [node:77205 link=Michelle Manzanales;]. The room’s bright, industrial lighting along with an audience in close proximity required the dancers to perform flawlessly and with boundless energy. Each rose to the occasion.

Such talent was exemplified at the commencement of the show, in Pawelk’s 40 Years Later, a full-company piece set to Stu Greenspan’s arrangement of spoken text by Barack Obama and Robert F. Kennedy. The work reflected upon humanitarianism in America as its cast moved vigorously through intermittent moments of synchronicity and eye contact, as well as through dynamic partnering phrases. Ziemba’s Café 1930: The Histoire de Tango similarly displayed the company’s fluid command and its palpably passionate approach to performance.

At the center of the evening was Mei Kuang Chen’s Pedestal, inspired by Ophelia from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Christina Chen, Andrea Deline and Joey Schumann deftly intepreted Chen’s precariously intricate choreography involving a small wooden table, which, combined with dynamic lifts and aggressive partnering, evoked the destructive effects of controlling relationships.

Bookending this piece were two duets featuring Ziemba and Dustin Crumbaugh. Ziemba brought polish to Fuller’s heartrending Dreaming of Home, while Crumbaugh’s athleticism shone during Michelle Manzanales’s lighthearted Love in a Foreign Language (to soulful vocals by Bobbi Wilsyn). Masterful renditions of Astor Piazzolla’s “Night Club 1960” and “Bordel 1900” by guitarist Marcus Dunleavy and violinist James Sanders provided the evening with well-placed interludes, as well as with a bit of Argentine panache. The asceticism of the studio served these presentations particularly well, as its acoustics assisted the players in engulfing the space and captivating their listeners.

This was a unique opportunity to witness CRDT in an intimate setting, but you can catch the company again at the [node:33023 link=Harris Theater;] on September 24 when it presents Constant Motion, which I hope continues the fiery intensity of “New Works.”

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)