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DANCIN' FEATS Luna Negra's Gustavo Ramirez Sansano on change
by Alicia Wilson
2010-10-13

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Gustavo Ramirez Sansano is ready to make things happen. Coming to Luna Negra Dance Theater this season as the new artistic director, Ramirez Sansano has plans to expand the audience of Luna Negra and create a space for Latino choreographers to be heard. The company will show its annual fall program Oct. 16 at the Harris Theater, followed by the second annual Noche de Luna Gala at the Chicago Cultural Center. Ramirez Sansano commented on the selection for the program: "Every time I compose a program I want to show different smells and colors and textures of dance. I think the three choreographers in this upcoming show, that we are really different in style. I believe that variety is really the best offer, that people who watch can think of something in a whole different way."

Luna Negra's 2010 fall program will feature the world premiere of Ramírez Sansano's "Toda una Vida" ( "All my Life" ) , a duet inspired by his parents' love story. An abstract narrative of a couple's journey to stay together no matter what, the piece blends quirky gestures with beautiful technique to create dynamic shifts in support and passivity. Ramirez Sansano comments on the choice to create an intimate duet, "When I started ( choreographing ) I used a lot of groups, but the older I get the more I am all about the relationship between two people. You always look into the eyes of just one other person, and I think the power of connection comes from that place."

Also on the program is the revival of Edwardo Vilaro's 2008 work "Deshár Alhát" ( "Leave Sunday" ) . This full-company work looks at the traditions, music and culture of the Sephardic Jews who settled in Latin America in the early 20th century. Themes of loss and disappearance surround this piece, accompanied by contemporary Sephradic vocalist Stefani Valadez.

Another premiere for the evening is the North American debut of Fernando Melo's piece "Bate," with Melo composing an additional section of the work for the Luna Negra performance. This piece for five men and two women is a layering of gesture material, grounded movements, set design and props. A motif of roses appears throughout the work, and the relationship between the men and women creates an interesting dynamic of movement.

Windy City Times sat down with Ramirez Sansano to find out more about the transition to Luna Negra and future plans for the company:

Windy City Times: How has the transition of changing artistic directors been on the company? [ Editor's note: Eduardo Vilaro left as artistic director of Luna Negra last year to head Ballet Hispanico. ]

Gustavo Ramirez Sansano: Well, it's a lot of work but with a good team it's easier. There are a lot of new things with the company this season, including many new dancers and creating new works for the tour. Being artistic director, it takes many hours of work to get a normal established, but I am grateful for the support of everyone in the company.

WCT: As a choreographer, who or what are your biggest influences?

GRS: I think everything influences me. Even the fact that I am in America, in Chicago, I may not see it right now but I think [ your surroundings ] plays a part in creating as well. Just even watching people on the subway can give inspiration, how they move their hands, how people talk to each other. In many of my pieces my family has always been my inspiration, and they don't dance. I have always said that creating is a sum of situations.

WCT: What are you bringing into Luna Negra from your past dancing experiences?

GRS: Everything. I think all my experiences—from being an artistic director of a small company to being in other companies and seeing how they work— [ have ] helped to shape what I want to see happen. It is always best to have many experiences, to give you more options. I have had students ask, "Should I do this or do that?" I say, "The more ingredients the better." If you have a lot [ of experiences ] you have the chance to take some out, but if you don't have much you can only choose from one or two.

WCT: What are your thoughts on the world of contemporary dance?

GRS: I don't like to call it "contemporary modern dance;" I call it "arts of movement." I don't like labels and I think the word contemporary puts the movement in a box, and creates expectations. Those expectations are bad, for example if someone goes to the theater for the first time, and unfortunately sees something that they do not like, they will place those feelings on anything labeled contemporary. If you have something called the "arts of movement," anything can be done. That is the beauty; it's all about your own cocktail. You have to offer your audience whatever you are, or whatever you want to call yourself. Whatever ingredients you need to use to explain whatever you want to say, that is what makes arts of movement.

WCT: What is your vision for this upcoming season?

GRS: In general my vision is to expand. I think we have a great platform for Latino choreographers, and I want to create the best environment, the dream place to come and choreograph, that is what I want to offer here. Not just about having the dancers or the studios, but about having the freedom to choreograph whatever we want.

Up until now Luna Negra has been doing bigger theaters, but we also want to expand to more independent places where choreographers can do whatever they really want to do. We also want to expand to a younger audience, which means making shows for kids. Not excerpts from pieces, but actually a show with the intention of being just for children. I am realizing that there is nothing really for the kids, and I want to change that. The kids' show that we are going to do here, that I premiered with my company in Spain, [ is ] called The Thief of Laughter. I want to show the kids that even though we are competing with Playstation and Wii, a live show is exciting and something really special.

Luna Negra Dance Theater will perform at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, on Saturday, Oct. 16, at 6:30 p.m.; tickets are $25 to $55. For tickets or more information call 312-334-7777 or visit www.harristheaterchicago.org .

The Noche de Luna Gala will immediately follow the fall program performance in the Sydney R. Gates Gallery of the Chicago Cultural Center, 77 E. Randolph. Individual Noche de Luna Gala tickets, which include premiere tickets to the fall program performance, are $300. For gala tickets call 312-337-6882 or visit www.lunanegra.org .


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