Cerqua Rivera mirrors new futures with Identity City


Fresh off the heels and success of “Soul Remedy,” choreographed by the accomplished Monique Haley, Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre continued their Spring Concert Series for the third consecutive weekend with “Identity City.” 

I arrived at Studio 5, an intimate black box theater in Evanston for the first time on June 2nd. Eager to view CRDT’s latest work, the four-year project had a timely premiere at the top of Pride month and was the perfect gateway to center the spectrum of inquiry that exists involving gender identity in the LGBQT community.  Curator, Director and beloved Co-Founder of Cerqua Rivera, Wilfredo Rivera, casually greeted eager attendees. He eventually took center stage in introducing his most recent offering.

In the opening suite, “Metamorphosis” choreographed by Shannon Alvis, eight dancers performed in white mesh cardigans in groups as duos or trios intermittently repeating clasps behind their heads and backs. The movements concentrated mostly on the gestures of the upper body as the dancers appeared to be introspective while discovering themselves. As they went through their uncoverings, I found myself becoming more and more intrigued by the soundtrack, which felt quite raw. Suddenly, I realized this was not at all a pre-recorded soundtrack but rather Joe Cerqua, the critical other half of Cerqua Rivera. His deep belting of the word “How” on repeat carried us through the changes of the piece along with the rest of the instruments that consisted of a violin, guitar, drums and another vocalist.  When I realized it was all unfolding before my very own eyes and ears, it felt exquisite and I was open to hear, see and learn more.

In between “Metamorphosis” and “Flight” was a thrilling Solo by Delphine Chang. Draped in mostly black, the movements reminded me of those of a hawk. Often elongated, strong winded leg lifts and confident to stand on its own. I would also like to mention the surprising re-occurring wardrobe change transitions that normally occur in the wings. It was refreshing to get a glimpse of this often tucked-away beauty on stage.  I wondered how many other beautiful gestures we often keep in hiding. How many changes are we forced to deal with in public?

“Flight” the fourth performance also choreographed by Alvis, flaunted gorgeous chiffon shades of aqua costumes that moved like extra limbs in the wind. The tempo was upbeat as the six dancers appeared to be angelic, moving effortlessly like birds in the breeze. Symbolically, “Flight” was a lovely reminder to fly on a higher plane, using our imaginations to create the lives and realities we choose to live.

The second half of “Identity City” took us into deeper complexity with “Isolation: Our Father” choreographed by Katlin Bourgeois. Live vocals also arranged by Joe Cerqua, composed by Albert Hay Moalotte, and beautifully expressed by Charin Alvarez, Marti Gobel and Fernando Rodriguez, gave us an echoed Prince tone. Reminding us that we are here to embrace the deep- seated complexity of gender identity, Prince being one of many of our first examples of artists not subscribing to traditional ways of dress and expression. Suspended into elongated partnering that resembled connective tissues, at times you could really get swallowed into the majesty of it all, with their luscious back arches, aerial splits and inverted lifts.

The finale, “Embodiment” also choreographed by Bourgeois, really showed off the dancers’ mastery, which was often balletic-a slight departure from Cerqua Rivera's classic jazz aesthetic. All of this movement played out to the most soothing arrangement of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” also composed by Cerqua and Harold Arlen. I departed in a state of euphoria, feeling whole and human, almost child-like as I remembered my love for the magic of rainbows, clouds and the boundlessness of the sky.  Cerqua Rivera stunned again, with another sonic and physically syncopated dynamic duo. But most importantly, Identity City encouraged us to embrace undoing and unlearning many of our outdated ways.