Luna Negra Dance Theater plans to enthrall audiences Oct. 19-21 with performances at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph. On Oct. 19-20, a program will feature four contemporary works, including a world-premiere tribute to mambo king Xavier Cugat and the troupe's classic 'Sugar in the Raw.' On Oct. 21, 'Mi Familia, My Dance'—a family matinee—will teach audience members about dance while performing.
Luna Negra Artistic Director Eduardo Vilaro talked with Windy City Times about his troupe's upcoming shows and fires back at 'dance snobs.'
Windy City Times: Tell me what's going to happen Oct. 19-20.
Eduardo Vilaro: We will [ showcase ] four different works. We look at Latin culture through contemporary dance, but this concert has a really strong connection to the forms that people are very much aware of. There are a lot of references to mambo, rumba, cha-cha and tango, mainly; [ however, ] it's taking these forms of dance and looking at human qualities.
The tango ( Tango Vitrola ) is this wonderful piece by Alejandro Cervera, who is from Buenos Aires [ , Argentina ] . He created this piece that is not this stylized, whisking-away thing; that's beautiful, but he wanted to show that the tango is really human, conversational—and intimate. It's about men and women; women and women; men and men ... how they support each other, and it's quite lovely and sensual. [ Cervera ] also deconstructs and removes the outer garments—what more do you need to see than a man bare-chested? He shows the very raw qualities of tango.
The next piece is this fabulous little quartet [ 'Allegro con Sabor' ] that is a joint venture with the Joffrey Ballet; the piece was created by Pedro Ruiz to show the similarities and differences between the two companies. It's very playful and very Cuban. It has a lot of hot tropical-night movement with classical lines.
Then we are doing 'Sugar in the Raw,' which we did in last spring's concert. This piece has beautiful qualities, and it has these gestural elements that are very folk and very Latin.
Then there's my new piece, 'Cugat!,' which is all mambo and cha-cha-cha. Cugat really spans the '30s [ through the ] '60s. He was responsible for a movement of Latin music in mainstream black-and-white movies. He was pre-Desi Arnaz. I am so intrigued by the power of this one individual, and wanted to pay honor to [ him ] . At the time [ the show's setting ] we were finishing a world war, and I'm trying to say, 'Well, it's not so different right now.' I like bringing in elements that really touch upon our human experiences. The somber moment is really a jolt.
WCT: One of the things that you're going to discuss in 'Mi Familia, My Dance' is how science plays a role in dance.
EV: Yes. The dancers all have skits, and the skits reflect paths of accessibility to understanding what's going on in the dance. We do one where we talk about physics, and how opposition works to do lifts, for example.
The show has explanations about how dance starts and how it's a reflection of life. I didn't want something that talks to the audience. My main objective for this performance is to reach out to the community. You can come out and see Luna Negra's full professional company for only $10. We hope that it's a way to connect.
WCT: However, you know what some might say: You're not making it accessible, but you're dumbing it down.
EV: Oh, I've got something to tell them. You know what? It is very bourgeoisie and very racist to tell me how to develop my form—to come tell me that I should be at a certain level when you got there yourself by stealing other elements.
I was at a recent panel in Miami, and these two—I'm sorry—white panel members, and they wanted these outlandish [ things ] . The whole idea that white Western art has moved a certain way and that [ these panelists ] dictate if something is interesting or is dumbing down just pisses me off. You haven't given us a chance to experiment. You want me to get up to your place—and maybe your place really isn't that interesting.
Tickets for the Oct. 19-20 performances are $25-$55, while the Oct. 21 matinee passes are $10.Call the Harris Theater box office at 312-334-7777 or see www.harristheaterchicago.org .