It's the end of an era and a bright new beginning as Chicago Dance Crash welcomes new directors KC Bevis and Jessica Leyva


There aren’t many companies like Chicago Dance Crash. They’re fusion of contemporary and street dance styles combined with acrobatics has been wowing audiences since the company’s conception in 2002 by founders, Marissa Moritz, Charlie Cutler and Mark Hackman. Since then, CDC has received rave reviews for their story shows with pop culture references to “The Wizard of Oz,” “Tron,” “Batman” and “Pinocchio” to name a few—each with elaborate special effects.

Their recurring event, “Keeper of the Floor,” pits company dancers and guest artists against one another in an all-out, multi-style, improvised dance battle. If you think there will be tickets left at the box office for these events, think again!

Simply referred to as “Crash” by fans, the company constantly reinvents itself with Hackman staying on as Executive Director and working with a rotating roster of Artistic Directors—Christopher M. McCray (2003-2006), Kyle Vincent Terry (2006-2010) and Jessica Deahr, who retained the position for eleven years.

This year, the company undergoes their most radical reinvention yet with Hackman and Deahr both stepping down and paving the way for new Executive Director Jessica Leyva and Artistic Director KC Bevis.

Far from being an authoritarian founder, Hackman cites Crash’s ability to evolve and change direction as its greatest strength. “Very often an artist starts their own company as the Artistic Director and CEO and the company pursues their artistic vision,” said Hackman. “The fact that there were three [founders] meant that there was no single vision. Instead of wearing multiple hats, we hired ADs who embraced the company as if it was their own. Our ability to separate business from art is one of our greatest strengths, which will continue under Leyva and KC.”

Deahr says that her experience as AD combined strong leadership with an egalitarian approach to creating work. “Each AD pushed the company in their own artistic direction,” said Deahr. “My goal was to keep the heart and soul of Crash but smooth it in the direction of my wheelhouse of contemporary jazz dance and music theater.” While shaping the company to meet her interests, Deahr insists that inspiration comes from allowing the dancers to be themselves. “There’re not many companies that want every dancer to be different from the dancer next to them. Each of our performances are affected by what dancers we have at the moment—we cater the show around them—and their freestyle voices influence the end product, a very unique process.”

Both Hackman and Deahr expressed a desire to focus on projects outside of Crash, saying that the time was right to step down thanks to their confidence in their replacements, Leyva and Bevis.

Incoming AD, KC Bevis met and became friends with Deahr while both were working with Inaside Dance Chicago. Inaside’s founder, Mark Richards, once commented to Bevis that her performance of a repertory work by Deahr fit her well, and a match made in dance heaven was born.

That’s not to say that Bevis is a carbon copy of Deahr. “Our visions for the company are different but also similar,” said Bevis, “and I focus more on street dance than [Deahr].” When it comes to the logistical side of running the company, Bevis cites her years working alongside Deahr as the perfect mentor/mentee relationship. “I’ve been helping her over the years, and she taught me a lot, whether we knew it at the time or not.”


(left to right) Chicago Dance Crash welcomes new Artistic Director KC Bevis and Executive Director Jessica Leyva; Photo by Ashley Deran

The new ED, Jessica Leyva, has a strong background in business management, with degrees in both dance and arts management from the University of California, Irvine, and cutting her teeth working for the Harris Theater and other non-profit organizations. No mere pencil-pusher, Leyva is a seasoned dancer, and performed with Crash for three seasons.

Bevis and Leyva cite several plans for the new iteration of Crash, beginning with the wellbeing of their dancers by providing them with a decent paycheck, benefits and a Human Resources department (all the things that come with a traditional job). There is also a strong focus on artist development by offering Crash artists high-quality training on the street styles they are being asked to perform. “If a show has, say, a “house” [dance] foundation, we will guarantee that the dancers are getting access to high-quality “House” training,” said Leyva. “We’re respecting the cultures that produced these styles while assuring that the dancers execute the movement to the best of their ability.”

Another goal is to bolster Crash’s already burgeoning community outreach program. The company currently performs over forty school shows per season for children in various communities. Bevis is adamant that “exposing more children to street dance styles” is one of her top priorities.

While Crash itself is a fusion of street and contemporary dance styles, these two dance communities are often segregated from one another, something that Bevis and Leyva hope to change. “One big thing we want to do is more community engagement by building stronger relationships within the street and concert dance communities and bridge the gap between the two,” said Leyva. “There are resources in both worlds that each could benefit from, and we think that that’s something worth exploring.”

Hackman and Deahr have nothing but confidence in the new guard’s ability to achieve these goals. “Mark and I are lucky to have KC and Leyva as part of the company,” said Deahr. “They’ve both been such important parts of the group and understand the background of the company. The transition has been easy and enjoyable.”

Hackman comments that Bevis has all the makings of a fantastic AD, with her proficient training in ballet and contemporary dance combined with her passion for  hip hop styles. Popping, locking, breaking, waving and tutting might make her “the most complete dancer we’ve ever had” and a perfect candidate for the position.

Although tight-lipped about upcoming projects, Leyva and Bevis insist that a number of exciting works are in the pipeline, including a collaboration with Dan Williams and Motus Cinema to produce high-quality digital media (a must for the internet age). There was even teasing about bringing back some fan-favorite artists from Crash’s past, including dancer Elijah Motley, called “a superb dancer-actor, masterful in a highly demanding role” by WTTW for his lead performance in Crash’s Pinocchio-inspired work, “Lil Pinenut” (2019).

The change in leadership is an exciting moment for stalwart Crash fans and a perfect jumping on point for anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of witnessing this unique company of dancers. Despite Crash’s decades-long evolution, Hackman maintains that their modus operandi is the same. “It is and will always be dance for the people, non-artsy-fartsy stuff, that everyone can enjoy. I’m looking forward to stepping away and taking pride in this company that will go on and be great in ways that have nothing to do with me.”

Hackman’s humility betrays reality. His and Deahr’s intuitive guidance will always be a part of Crash’s appeal, as will all the creative teams who have over the years injected into the company their indelible dance DNA. While their absence will no doubt be mourned by fans, any sense of melancholy is overshadowed by the potential brought forth by Bevis and Leyva, a future that foretells the already formidable company expanding in new and exciting ways.