Luna Negra Dance Theater bites the dust

Eduardo Zuñiga of Luna Negra Dance Theater in rehearsal for CARMEN.maquia

Eduardo Zuñiga of Luna Negra Dance Theater in rehearsal for CARMEN.maquia Photograph: Alberto March

It was announced yesterday that Luna Negra Dance Theater is ceasing operations "due to financial constraints." Established in 1999 by Cuban-born dancer and choreographer Eduardo Vilaro, the Latino-focused company was one of the boldest and most artistically exciting contemporary dance ensembles in Chicago, even more so when Gustavo Ramirez Sansano came onboard as artistic director in 2010 (following Vilaro's departure). We remember being mesmerized by the Picasso-inspired Carmen.maquiaall the athletic, emotive movement—among his other brave choreographic feats. 

The announcement of the company's closure doesn't exactly come as a surprise. Back when we were brainstorming what dance events to include in our summer preview, we planned to spotlight LNDT's Luna Nueva Festival at the MCA. Former TOC dance editor Matthew de la Peña wrote that he was looking forward to "quick-paced and in-your-face works based on Luna's recent stylings." But the annual fest, slated for June, was cancelled last month, along with the rest of the company's spring series. Sansano resigned and returned to Spain, and star dancers Monica Cervantes and Eduardo Zuniga left for their respective homes of Spain and Chile (according to the Sun-Times, due to visa issues). 

Ultimately, the closure seems all about the Benjamins—or lack thereof. The company's latest operating budget was close to $1 million—which, yes, is a lot of Benjamins: close to 10,000, in fact. But for perspective, compare its 2011 revenue and expenses ($859,757; $932,423) to that of the Joffrey Ballet ($14,781,644; $13,531,955). Despite corporate support from the likes of Allstate, Boeing and Exelon, LNDT was unable to stay financially afloat.

"The financial reality could not be avoided any longer," Board President Jorge Solis said in a press release.

We're sad to see such a fearless and innovative troupe go. 

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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)