“Constant Motion” | Preview
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Inaside Chicago Dance break in the New Stages for Dance Initiative.
Dance companies exist to put on shows for the public. Sure, many of them are also associated with training and arts-outreach programs, and a few define themselves first and foremost by their research, by how they’re expanding the art form’s horizons. But all of them perform.
The vast majority of companies do or aspire to perform in theaters built for dance. A good dance venue offers a good sound system; a wide, deep and uninterrupted expanse of floor with a barely noticeable but crucial bit of bounce; a varied and flexible grid of lights pointed at the stage; seats that offer unobstructed views of that stage; and enough room offstage to warm up unseen.
Renting such a building, even just for one night, doesn’t come cheap, especially houses staffed by union-represented stagehands, crew members and managers.
In May 2010, the industry’s national service organization, Dance/USA, announced that a pilot program in Philadelphia called the New Stages for Dance Initiative would expand into Chicago and San Francisco for an initial two-year period, with $150,000 in support from the MetLife Foundation. Chicago partner nonprofit Audience Architects received local companies’ applications and, last spring, 16 first-round recipients were announced. For one engagement each, rental fees for five choice theaters will be partially underwritten by the initiative. Its first grants in Chicago total $42,500.
However, there are just eight New Stages–subsidized programs between this weekend and next May; all but two companies will perform jointly with one or two fellow recipients. The first of these shows, “Constant Motion,” goes up at the Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre, a 15-year-old group with a history of collaborating with musicians and visual artists, and Inaside Chicago Dance, a contemporary jazz–dance troupe formed in 2003. Both have performed at midsize theaters such as Lakeview’s , but they’ve also had to make do with shows in studios.on Saturday 24. The bill features
Unlike, say, rock bands and stand-up comedians, dance companies don’t generally join forces to combine audiences and split costs. During a recent conference call with both groups’ artistic directors—Cerqua’s Wilfredo Rivera and Inaside’s Richard A. Smith—I asked how the process of producing an evening not just at a much larger scale than usual, but also cooperatively, was going in its final weeks. After sharing that he’d never had to tackle a deeper deluge of e-mails—at which Rivera burst into laughter, agreeing—Smith said that their excitement at seeing their companies onstage at the Harris has been more than enough to keep them and their nearly overwhelmed staffs going. (In Inaside’s case, that’s two full-time employees and two more who work only on Tuesdays, Thursdays and weekends.)
“We’re passionate about what we’re doing and where we are right now,” Smith said. “If we weren’t, it would be very easy for us to close up shop and call it quits.”
Rivera agreed, proposing that even outside of the context of being New Stages grant recipients, shared productions shouldn’t be so rare in dance. Companies “should be doing this more often,” he said. “It just makes sense.”
Added Smith: “There aren’t that many resources out there, but just being able to share knowledge is something we will take back to our own work, in our own studios. And that knowledge is free.”
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre and Inaside Chicago Dance are in “Constant Motion” at the Harris Theater on Saturday 24.