Luna Negra’s “Reunion”

Luna Negra dancer Eduardo Zuniga in Fernando Melo's "Bate". Photo courtesy of The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, this Saturday, October 13, Luna Negra Dance Theater brings a three-work program to the Harris Theater. The shows title, Reencuentros, or “reunions”, is just that on several levels. A revisiting of Fernando Melo’s 2005 work Bate, which the company performed in 2010; a reuniting of Melo with the Luna dancers for collaboration; and a return to choreographic roots for Artistic Director Gustavo Ramírez Sansano. His new work 18 + 1 anchors the performance between Melo’s earlier Bate and a current collaboration with the company. “Last year was the 18th year of my work, since I started putting things on the stage,” Sansano says. “Last year wasn’t the right moment, so the ‘plus one’. I wanted to make a point with 18, because that’s when you’re a grown up.”

Also growing up is Luna Negra, the company. This season, ten contracted dancers, plus nine apprentices are on the roster, creating a strong foundation to expand and explore. Unfortunately for audiences, veteran Luna performer Veronica Guadalupe will dance her final show with the company on Saturday, although she will still act as rehearsal director. Sansano has been planning this show for a while. “When I talked to Fernando to do Bate (in 2010), that was an introduction of his work to get to the point we are at now,” he says from the Ballet Chicago studios on State Street. “That was the first meeting, now is the re-encounter.”

The Brazilian-born Melo, is currently a dancer, choreographer and rehearsal director at GöteborgsOperans Danskompani in Sweden, while also traveling the world setting his works – a job, he admits, leaves little time for sleep. “Life gets a little busy sometimes,” he says. “I work every day until 6:00 p.m., then my other job starts. I’m a night person, so I get a lot done in the evenings.” Melo took six weeks off to come to Chicago and work with Luna Negra (he’d been here for five when I spoke with him earlier this week). His assistant/repétiteur Stephan Laks and set/costume designer Markus Pysal came with him to aid in resetting Bate and creating Walk-In. The world premiere is finished aside from last minute tweaking. “With a collaboration like this, it’s not ready when you can’t put things in anymore, it’s ready when you can’t take anything else out.”

The title Walk-In, also has multiple meanings: a walk-in closet (“the dancers have to walk into the set for the action to begin”), as well as the new age meaning of when a soul or spirit departs a body and is replaced by a new one. Melo says the initial departure point for starting the collaborative in-studio process was the mundane routines of everyday life. “The theme has been, not only the routines, but the mental state or the emotions that are behind our daily routines. What is actually going on in our mind, while we’re in the midst of our daily routine.” he says. “The mundane itself may not be very exiting to put on stage, but what lies behind those activities, I find very interesting. It’s a very human piece.”

While Melo digs into the meaning behind the ordinary, Sansano goes for the simple.”This one is going back to basics,” he says of 18 + 1. “It’s just music and dance. The celebration, for me, is the perfect marriage between dance and music, where both of them make each other. We give sight to to music and the music gives us sound for our bodies.” His trademark humor, detailed nuance and lightening fast moves are on full display here.

Sansano couldn’t be happier working with Melo, who he says will definitely be back to work with the company in the future. “I’ve seen the process and it’s [Walk-In] probably, I believe, the best creation for the company,” says Sansano. “It shows how we’ve grown in a real way. Everything was a process and we wouldn’t have gotten here if it weren’t for everything we’ve gone through. It’s the result of these two years of work. It’s like, ok, we’re here.”

Catch a sneak peek into the rehearsal process:

Luna Studio: Reencuentros

Luna Negra Dance Theater presents Reencuentros, Saturday, October 13 at 8 pm at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. Tickets are $25-$65. Call 312.334.7777 or visit www.lunanegra.org.

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