Chicago Dance: The Sacred and Profane

June 4, 2010

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In separate concerts this weekend, two local dance companies deliver their individual interpretations of the sacred and the profane. For WBEZ, dance critic Lucia Mauro has more.

Performances:
Moving Architects--Sacred Spaces
Runs June 3-5
St. Paul's Chapel in Lincoln Park

Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre
June 4-6
Vittum Theatre in Bucktown

Erin Carlisle Norton, artistic director of the three-year-old post-modern dance group The Moving Architects, spent long hours exploring the Neo-Gothic church where her father served as pastor. This consuming interest in the poetry of architectural spaces inspired her to create a dance company informed by the history of its site-specific locations. This weekend The Moving Architects premiere Sacred Spaces, at St. Paul's Chapel in Lincoln Park. But Carlisle Norton's motivations are neither spiritually didactic nor faith-specific. Instead, the choreographer is interested in eliciting the complex harmony that exists between our inner worlds and the vast expectations we impose on sacred structures.

In addition to Judeo-Christian monuments, she traveled to ancient temples and shrines in Mexico and India to research the geometry for her dancers' movement patterns. Interestingly, many of these holy places have been built with harmonious architectural ideas in mind. So Carlisle Norton incorporated a circular or triangular base for the compositions of her five dancers' bodies. The piece, Sacred Spaces, begins with one dancer in a deep arabesque. She then breaks into a reverent, low-to-the-ground bow…a shape inspired by a gargoyle figure the choreographer saw on a shrine in India.

This invitation to the dance leads to a variety of pairings – from a delicately curved chorus of the Three Graces to the five women dancers adhering to each other to form what looks like a giant marching millipede. Ultimately, the dancers unite the architecture of bodies and souls. Though their works run the gamut from solemn to ecstatic, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre is in a celebratory mood in its 14th year in Chicago. Multimedia and multicultural, the jazz-based company often brings live musicians on stage with the dancers. This performance honors cofounder Matt Lamb, a Chicago muralist and peace activist whose vibrant backdrops with primal and comic-strip overtones grace many a performance. The Vittum Theatre stage will team the energetic dancers with vocalists Bobbi Wilsyn, Joe Cerqua and the Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Choir.

Choreographer Wilfredo Rivera remounts his acclaimed ensemble work, Brujos Deseos (or Witching Lust), a dangerous peek into the sensuous and predatory nature of the tango. An homage to Argentine culture rather than a flashy recreation of Forever Tango, the piece weaves the dancers together in synchronized flowing arms and legs kicked and thrown in various directions. One part features a suggestive trio of a man and two women, with the music fanning them out like the bellows of a bandoneon.

Continuing the party atmosphere, Rivera brings back Tom and Jerry, a playful reimagining of Brazilian Carneval. This free-for-all dance party turns the performers into snake charmers, rowdy revelers and cart-wheeling acrobats – a great rush of uninhibited joy and self-expression. Both The Moving Architects and Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre unite the sacred and the profane in concerts that are contemplative and festive.