Where Are They Now? Luna Negra’s Renee Adams

Dancer Renee Adams opens up about the end of Luna Negra Dance Theater and what she’s up to now.

Where are you now?

Richland, WA.

What are you doing?

As of September, I am the Artistic Assistant of Mid-Columbia Ballet in Richland, a youth company under the direction of Debra Rogo. My role includes choreographing, running company rehearsals, and initiating a new arts education program in area schools. I also teach in the school (Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet) which is operated in the same building and is under the same direction. The students and staff are wonderful and I’m very lucky and grateful to have found this opportunity. Since leaving Chicago in May I have traveled throughout the Northwest, including Portland and Seattle, teaching workshops and summer courses.

After the shock (and multiple shock waves) of job loss, I’ve thought through many different career scenarios. My career trajectory hasn’t fully emerged, but dancing and performing is still an important expression for me. In what way that will manifest, I have yet to discover.

What do you miss about Luna Negra?

I miss all of the artists that made up the company. It’s heartbreaking to not have them to share inspirations with, grow and laugh with, and share such a deeply artistic experience with. It’s also beautiful and wonderful to remember the INCREDIBLE things that we did and created together. I miss having an artistic home, a place where I knew every day that I was going to search for the things that were impossible to say with words.

What was special about Luna? What did it mean for you to be a “Lunatic”?
Gustavo saw things in me that I did not know where there and those three years represent a turning point in the way I view myself, the world, and dance. Learning from Gustavo meant finding and losing myself over and over again, and allowing both change and individuality each moment. Gustavo guided dancers on their own journey, while bringing everyone together on his own. That’s a remarkable gift that very few people, let alone artists, have, and it is what made Luna special.

Where Are They Now? Luna Negra’s Christopher Bordenave

Dancer Christopher Bordenave.

Having worked with Nacho Duato, Alonzo King, Desmond Richardson, and of course, Luna Negra Dance Theater‘s Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, it’s not surprising that after Luna closed its doors, Christopher Bordenave landed on his feet.

Were are you now?

I am currently in San Francisco, CA through the fall, but the majority of my things are in Los Angeles.

What are you doing now?

Since Luna’s closure I moved back home to Los Angeles. I am currently dancing with Zhukov Dance Theatre, a project based dance company in San Francisco, and I am also working for BODY TRAFFIC which is a contemporary based repertory company in Los Angeles. Both company’s schedules are pretty flexible, so I have been blessed enough to juggle back and forth between them.

What do you miss about Luna?

I miss everything about Luna…the people, the direction, the repertory. There was no other dance company in the states doing the type of work we were doing. Gustavo allowed every choreographer that came to work with us during my time at Luna, the utmost freedom to create whatever they wanted. Usually companies are looking for something specific to be able to market and sell to presenters, but we were free from those restrictions, which in turn allowed truly remarkable work to emerge.

What was special about Luna? What did it mean to be a “Lunatic”?

Dancing Gustavo’s work on stage was the first time I truly felt like I was a part of FINE art. Being a “Lunatic” was like nothing else I’ve ever experienced while training or working professionally. I have never felt more love and comfort from the people that I shared the space with like I did there. Gustavo shifted my whole paradigm on dance and turned me into an artist. I can be very cerebral at times and get lost in my thoughts throughout the work day which is hard for most directors/choreographers to work with, but Gustavo understood me. He was patient with me and allowed me to be a part of his genius vision, along with all of the other brilliant “Lunatics,” which I am forever grateful for.

Where Are They Now? Luna Negra’s Nigel Campbell

Dancer Nigel Campbell. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

When Luna Negra Dance Theater put its dancers on an extended hiatus last spring, Nigel Campbell was the first one to secure a new gig. RB spoke with him after he settled at his new job/home. Here’s an update on what he’s up to.

Where are you?

I live in Gothenburg, Sweden.

What are you doing now?

I am dancing at the Gothenburg Opera DansKompani. I began here about two weeks after Luna announced its extended hiatus. I was very fortunate to be able to move to another job so quickly. I feel very blessed.

What do you miss about LNDT?

The PEOPLE. What a great group we had. [It was] a wonderful collection of individuals…and we were always encouraged to bring our individuality out so we could constantly learn from each other. I miss Gustavo (Ramirez Sansano) terribly, although we are still in contact. I miss being in the studio with him vibe-ing and creating.

What were some of your favorite works?

“Not Everything”…a group piece. It was visually, musically, and architecturally gorgeous! The process flowed very smoothly. It just came together, really relaxed, really unforced. It also contained some of the fastest dancing I’ve ever had to do in my life.

“Toda una Vida” was Gustavo’s first creation as director of Luna. [It was] a tour de force 20-minute duet with some of the most complex partnering I’ve ever done or seen. It remains the most challenging piece I’ve ever had to dance. It also has the most sophisticated and deep understanding of musicality I’ve ever seen to that piece of music (Ravel’s “Bolero”).

“Carmen.maquia” was Gustavo’s evening-length abstract take on “Carmen”. It was quite simply a masterpiece.

“Walk-in” by Fernando Melo, who is my rehearsal director here in Gothenburg. I think he made an exquisite piece of contemporary dance on us and my only regret is that we only got to dance it once. My fear is that it will be lost and no one else will ever get to see this absolutely gorgeous piece.

What was special about LNDT? What did it mean to be a “Lunatic”?

Again, what was most special about Luna was the artists who gave their hearts and souls to it. To be a Lunatic meant you knew you were at the ground of something, that you were a part of building something that could have a legacy. We were always very aware of that. We made so many sacrifices because we believed in the potential of the company under Gustavo’s leadership. We were willing to go above and beyond, because we could feel how truly special what we were doing was. We were a company that didn’t focus on the great master works of the past, but went boldly into the unknown and tried to discover what the next step for contemporary dance was. We were risk takers and hard workers, collaborators, not just receivers. We were active participants in what was being created. We were all part of the legacy we were trying to build. What an incredible journey we were able to go on together.

It’s hard for me to comprehend that all the work we put so much of ourselves into, all of the sacrifices we made, are now just memories. Life goes on and we will all continue to make great and relevant art. Life is crazy and I’ve learned from this that truly, in a moment, EVERYTHING can change and that you always have to be ready. I’m thankful that I had the opportunity to be a Lunatic. It has shaped me in so many ways. I am so incredibly and remarkably blessed that I was in the right place at the right time.

Where Are They Now? Luna Negra’s Kirsten Shelton

Dancer Kirsten Shelton. Photo by Jonathan Mackoff.

The Chicago dance community lost an innovative cultural gem when Luna Negra Dance Theater (LNDT) closed its doors in spring of 2013. An extended hiatus for the dancers hit in March, artistic director Gustavo Ramírez Sansano stepped down in April and the Board of Directors announced it was ceasing operations last May. The dancers and artistic staff, stunned and out of work, dispersed around the world. So, where are they now? What are they up to? RB set out to find out and we’ll here from each of them in the upcoming months.

First up, dancer Kirsten Shelton.

Where are you?

I am still in the Chicagoland area. I own a home in a northwest village where I have lived for nearly three years. I don’t have any plans to relocate at this time. I am quite content with my home and family life.

What are you doing now?

I have been working on my undergraduate degree over the past six years and am finally set to graduate with my BS in Liberal Studies from Oregon State University in December. I haven’t danced since April, and while that was largely due to lack of work and resources, it is also because it is just easier to reflect on…‘big’ questions or painful loss by putting a little distance between that thing and yourself.  Sometimes loss can also be seen as an opportunity to reevaluate what you’ve done (or not) up to now and allows a space for finding a new identity, so to speak.  It’s easy to understand how rattled one can become after unexpectedly losing a job they had been completely immersed in and completely in love with.  But a little break in the norm can also offer a better perspective much of the time, and I know I’m definitely not done dancing yet.  In what capacity, I have yet to decide/learn/find.  That’s all I know for now, which is fine with me.

What do you miss about LNDT?

This is the only company I have ever had a professional contract with. I joined in 2002 as a fledging 20-year-old under the founder/director, Eduardo Vilaro, and have remained ever since.  I have to say that what I miss MOST is being in a position where I am surrounded by exceptional people who are at the top of their game in the trade that we all share.  The other individuals answering this same set of questions are some of the best dancers and artists I have known either professionally or personally.  But I was with Luna for over a decade and have had the stellar opportunity to watch and know so many dancers who have passed through the company along their own journeys, and I think of all of those people sometimes, even still.  Witnessing the process of excellence is lovely, and I am sometimes convinced that dancers have the best mechanism there is to develop the depth of human compassion and connection the rest of the world sometimes lacks.  Maybe it’s just the nature of dance, but I don’t know of many other professions where (despite personal differences), I feel love for the people I work with – and I think most dancers know just what I mean.  I miss getting to watch people I care about move and grow and learn and amaze me on a daily basis.  That applies to all of those dancers and artists I have been so lucky to know throughout the years I was in the company.

What was special about LNDT? What did it mean to be a “Lunatic”?

Similarly, Luna was special to me because it was my professional and artistic home for much of my adult life.  I participated in so many different kinds of work under two very different artistic and aesthetic visions and can’t imagine what I would be now without having put all of those experiences in my pocket.  I always felt that Luna presented work with a voice that is not seen elsewhere in this city, and as the company grew and evolved, it developed an identity that was unusual and interesting on a broader level. Some of the work – especially a lot of what Gustavo created in recent years – is second to none in my mind, not just here but anywhere that professional contemporary dance exists. I am the kind of dancer that feels that doing work which is relevant is what makes my ‘job’ worthwhile. Even as an audience member, I am more interested in the quality of the work I am witnessing the performance of, because good dancers with incredible skills are everywhere and even great dancers doing irrelevant work does not necessarily make a worthwhile show/company/artform.   Luna has always cultivated work that has relevance and though I didn’t love everything in the rep, it was meaningful to me because it fit into the bigger picture which was built around the vision of the choreographer.  That is why, from its foundation, Luna was a special place and why I wanted to remain a dancer with that particular company until it ceased to be.

You can see Kirsten perform in Dance Chance Redux 5.0, Friday, October 11 at 8 p.m. at the NEIU Auditorium at Northeastern Illinois University, 5500 N St Louis Ave. Purchase tickets here.

 

All Chicago Dance Shoot #ACDS

All Chicago Dance Shoot. Photo by Quinn B Wharton.

What would happen if dancers from all over Chicago were invited to get together for a one-day photo shoot? Hubbard Street dancer and professional photographer Quinn B Wharton and Chicago native/dancer Jonathan “Jojo” Alsberry decided to find out. By creating a Facebook event page, the pair invited as many dancers as they could to participate in this uniquely awesome artistic feat.  On Easter Sunday a couple dozen dancers from companies like River North Dance Chicago, Giordano Dance Chicago, Luna Negra Dance Theater (now defunct), Hedwig Dances, Joffrey Ballet,  and more, as well as local independent artists gathered at the Intuit Gallery to get their creativity on with direction from Wharton. The result: the cool-ass photo above that captures the energy, vibrancy and diversity of Chicago’s dance scene.

A statement about the project from Wharton:

“This project was about community more than anything else. Having moved to Chicago not so long ago I was struck by the city’s vibrant and close-knit dance scene. The dancers here know each other, support each other, and work together whenever possible. Coming from a different environment, I was touched and inspired by this community. Trying to get a number of dancers together for a shoot was an early thought that I wanted to pursue. With the closing of Luna Negra, and its shock to the dance community, it seemed like a perfect time to attempt to get a group together. With a strict timeline set we worked to find a location, develop a concept, and pull all the dancers together. The day became a testament to that, a gathering of dancers from a number of companies in the city. Everyone pitching in, lending support, and hopefully making new connections that will last. The dynamic of an art community in a city is fostered by these cross interactions and educations, positive sit downs where everyone builds real face-to-face relationships. This photo is the first like it that I have ever attempted, a large panoramic that involves a significant amount of photoshop work. It taught me so many things about how to prep, build, and execute a work like this; something that I will carry with me for as long as I take pictures. So thank you to everyone involved, I hope that the process has affected you in some way, and that you will continue to carry that community out into the world.”

To see the photo larger or order a print, go here.

Dancer Spotlight: Nigel Campbell

GöteborgsOperans Danskompani dancer Nigel Campbell.

A couple of weeks can make all the difference. Right after a well-received March performance of Luna Negra Dance Theater‘s Made in Spain, dancer Nigel Campbell found himself out of work. The company announced the dancers would be put on an extended hiatus effectively making the current dancers at least temporarily unemployed. Little did we know that Campbell was planning to leave at the end of the season and quickly convinced his new boss, GöteborgsOperans Dankompani Artistic Director Adolphe Binder, to let him join the Swedish contemporary company early. “Initially she told me no, because it was pretty much the end of the season” he said. “She wrote me back two days later and said I could come on as a cover and start learning things for next season. I’ll always be indebted to her.” After a quick pit stop home in New York, Campbell moved to Sweden and just danced in his first performance with the company earlier this month as a replacement for dance/choreographer/rehearsal director Fernando Melo who is on paternity leave (yes, they get that!).

RB spoke with Campbell via Skype on a Sunday evening after he got settle in Sweden. Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Alright, I’m recording this shit. Hi! How are you? What time is it there?

12:30. I had kind of an easy day and I have tomorrow off since they had the show today. I just went to see it. It was absolutely incredible. I’ve only been here two weeks. Everything has happened so fast that I haven’t had time to process it. I’m waiting for the moment to hit me. It’s kind of a blessing.

Why that company? How did you get there?

I was going to join the company next season. It wasn’t official yet and I had just spoken to Gustavo [Ramirez Sansano] about it a few days before everything happened, so I hadn’t made it public yet. I had been aware of the company for quite some time and it has a really good reputation and recently has shifted its focus to very contemporary work and creation and lots of risk taking. Of course at Luna we worked with Fernando [Melo] twice. I had a good rapport and relationship with him. The opportunity presented itself for me to be here and I thought it was a really good opportunity and new information, because it’s really different. It’s an institution. It’s an opera house and there are 40 dancers. It’s completely different from the way I was working at Luna. I was very happy, but I’ve always had this idea for my life where I have lots of different experiences and try on lots of different hats and live in different places. What I’ve always liked about dance is that you get to have so many lives. I’m young and I want to try on lots of different hats. This hat presented itself and it was something I needed to take advantage of. I’m still processing everything. It happened so fast.

How is your body?

Ohhhh. My body is in a bit of shock. I had two weeks to get everything in order to move here. There was a move from Chicago to New York and then New York to Sweden. I didn’t really have time to dance during those two weeks and I was lugging around suitcases and boxes and I’m jet lagged. I jumped into rehearsals here and it’s a very physical piece as well and completely different way of moving from what I’ve been focusing on for the past three years. My body is quite in shock. It hurts, but it’s good. We have physical therapy and massage therapy every day. My body is starting to get used to things. Everything is starting to settle, which is nice.

Talk about Mr. Nigel. Where did you grow up? When did you start dancing?

I’m from the Bronx. I started dancing at a studio in Brooklyn, because my mother’s family is from Brooklyn and we went to church in Brooklyn. This school was affiliated with the church that I went to. I was about 12, which is quite late to start dancing.  They trained me to get into LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts which is the ‘Fame’ school. The school the movie was based on. That was my introduction to formal training. I was taking ballet every day and the Graham technique. That was when I started to become a bit more serious about my training. I felt like I had a lot of catching up to do, so I really pushed myself. It was dancing all the time and taking four or five classes a day. Also, because I don’t have a natural body for dance. I’m not very flexible. I worked really hard and I graduated from La Guardia and went to Juilliard. That was a very intense experience. I call it the best/worst experience of my life. It’s everything. It’s so full. When people ask, ‘how was it at Juilliard? Was it amazing?’ It was amazing. I cried and I laughed and I met people who are my closest friends in the world. I learned so much, but it’s difficult. They’re pushing you to be incredible. It takes a lot of work and dedication. There are a lot of big fish from small ponds all coming together and you’re all really talented and different. It can be difficult. This is also really beautiful. I went there for four years. It has informed a lot of my choices throughout my life.

And after you graduated?

I graduated in 2008 and moved to Germany. I danced for Marguerite Donlon for two years. That was my first job out of college. Maggie was awesome. I’d lived my entire life in NYC. It’s such a fast pace. I love the energy and fast pace, so when I moved to this small town in Germany, my whole life was flipped upside down in the most amazing way. Everything was new. I didn’t know anyone. I don’t know the culture. I don’t speak the language. I’ve never worked professionally. For the first time, I’m very far away from my family and friends. This was exciting. It was a chance for me to reinvent myself and decide who I was at that moment. At Juilliard, there’s an encouragement to explore Europe. There’s a lot of dancers from the school who are dancing in Europe. I spent all of this time worrying that no one would want me, but taking classes in Europe, I thought I could actually do this. I could be a professional. It was really fresh and new and amazing. Maggie nurtured me and built my confidence. I got to dance a lot when I was there. There were 20 of us. She believed in me. She put me on stage. I grew a lot in those two years. I had to discover my own identity.

What brought you to Chicago?

I heard about Gustavo while I was dancing in Europe. He was already quite famous in Europe. I was on my first summer holiday, my first vacation. I went to visit my friend in Madrid, he was dancing for Nacho Duato. I went to a show. It was a two-billed program. One by Nacho and one by Gustavo. I saw this and immediately fell madly in love with him. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know anything about him. I thought why don’t I know him? This is everything I love about dance and nothing that I hate. I went home to New Yrok and talked to my friend Sarah, who was dancing with Luna Negra under Eduardo Vilaro. She said she thought Gustavo was taking over and in the fall it was announced that he was taking over the company. I didn’t have his email or anything, so I sent him a message on Facebook. I was apprehensive, because it seemed so unorthodox. I told him I’d been following his work and I’d love the opportunity to physicalize his work on my body. I sent him a link to some video clips, but I didn’t expect anything from him. I felt in my spirit that I needed to let him know how I felt. He wrote back quickly. I worked with TitoYaya [Sansano's Project in Spain] for a week. It was really difficult. After the audition in Chicago in April I was 100% down with him and ready to be a part. I finished the season in Germany and moved to Chicago to dance for Gustavo at Luna Negra. He delivered everything that I ever dreamed and expected and wanted him to deliver. He pushed me further that I thought anyone could push me. He demanded a lot of me. It was difficult and frustrating at times. It was scary. It was a different system. I’d never worked professionally in the States. I didn’t understand the complicated health care system. I didn’t understand the lay off system. There was a thing about the way he was working and creating and about his work that felt very much a part of who I am. It was difficult. Gustavo’s body can do these crazy things. My body can’t do that. It was a struggle to get inside of the work in my body. He gave us the freedom to discover his work in your own body. I connected to his physicality, to his musicality, his speed. Some of the actual physical things I had to figure out. There was an intellectual process behind it as well.  In looking at his work, there’s something so architectural. It’s so structural and everything fits together.  He sees it in his head. You can see it working in his head. I was 23 when I started with him. To work with someone that I really believed in and considered a genius…he opened me. He never allowed me to excuse myself. He would say, ‘I’m not going to let you say that you can’t do it. You have to figure it out. I believe that you are talented and intelligent enough to find out how to make it work.’ It was harsh, but always with a cushion of love and support. In that way, he pushed me further than anyone else ever has.

Is there anything you’d like to say “one the record” about what happened at Luna?

It was rough. I don’t think anyone planned it or wanted it to happen. It wasn’t a great situation for anyone. I don’t have any ill will toward the company. I wish Luna Negra all the best in the future. What I take from it is three years of really incredible work and really incredible people. I think we created something special.  I’m honored that I got to be part of something so special. I stand behind Gustavo 100%. I believe in his work and his vision and his artistic direction. That is always where my loyalty and where my conviction has been. I feel that my relationship with him is stronger and I’m thankful that he’s been so supportive of me and that he’s been so understanding. He’s been in my corner this entire time. I will always be part of the Luna Negra family and it will always be a part of my life. I really do wish them the best. I stand by Gustavo. It was time for me to move on and make a change. That was my personal decision. I think I’m a very positive person. I always try to look on the bright side of things. We all falter sometimes and our emotions get the best of us. After some time to think, I’m such a better person, a better dancer, a better artist three years later after having my experience in Chicago with Luna Negra. I’m really grateful for that. My love and loyalty and devotion is with Gustavo. I think he’s brilliant,. I think he’s the voice of a generation. He has the talent and intelligence to move the art form forward. I’m grateful that I got to have that experience. I’m really blessed. All I can do is be thankful for my life.

 

 

 

 

 

Breaking News: Luna Negra Ceasing Operations

Luna Negra Dance Theater just announced it is ceasing operations due to financial constraints – effective immediately – until further notice. As you know, the company has been in turmoil for the past couple of months with laying off dancers and the exit of Artistic Director Gustavo Ramiraz Sansano, but this is the worst possible outcome. Very sad news.

Here’s a statement by Board President Jorge Solis from the press release:

“Luna Negra is very proud of having provided a wonderful medium in which to celebrate and showcase Latino inspired dance in the city of Chicago.  Sharing the rich Latino culture has been a source of pride and inspiration to all those involved with the company over the last 14 years. It’s been tremendously difficult to come to the conclusion to cease operations, but the financial reality could not be avoided any longer,” said Jorge Solis, Board President for Luna Negra Dance Theater.

MIA & Update

Howdy! Sorry I’ve been M.I.A. on the blog the last week or so. I’m taking a brief, but much needed break from our crazy dance scene – honestly, Joffrey‘s Othello wore me out! – for a couple of days, but working behind-the-scenes on some upcoming stuff.

Things to look for soon: notes on the Music + Movement Festival Showcase, a review of Eifman Ballet‘s Rodin (both at Auditorium Theatre next week), part two of my interview with Hubbard Street dancer Kevin Shannon about his DanceMotion USA trip, a preview/ Q&A with flamenco dancer Chiara Mangiameli about her studio’s upcoming performance of Quejíos – Cries In The Air, a chat with former Luna Negra-turned-GöteborgsOperans Dansekompani dancer Nigel Campbell! I’m sure there’s more, but I can’t think of what they are right now, so they will be a surprise.

Kisses!

 

Breaking News: Luna Negra Dance Theater

Gustavo Ramíraz Sansano. Photo by Jonathan Mackoff.

As of today, Gustavo Ramírez Sansano is stepping down as Artistic Director of Luna Negra Dance Theater. He will still remain involved with the company artistically. In May, the board will begin an international search to replace him as Artistic Director.

A sad start to the week. His childlike spirit and artistic vision will be greatly missed. Kisses and kudos. Here’s some of the fantastic work created during his time in Chicago with Luna.

Breaking News: Luna Negra Announces Extended Hiatus

Luna Negra's Monica Cervantes. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

After a successful show last Satuday night, Luna Negra Dance Theater announced it will be on an extended hiatus, but is working toward building a sustainable future. Here’s to a speedy resolution and best wishes to the artistic staff and dancers. Don’t go anywhere…Chicago loves you!

Here is the official statement from the company:

“Luna Negra Dance Theater recently brought on a new Executive Director who has worked closely with the Board of Directors and staff to assess the company’s artistic and administrative operations. To ensure the long-term health of the dancers (several of whom are currently out on injury) and allow for sound fiscal growth in the company’s 2013-2014, 15th anniversary season beginning in the fall, Luna Negra has extended the dancers’ already scheduled hiatus and has reduced hours for administrative staff. The Board of Directors and key staff will continue to conduct day-to-day operations and assure the continued artistic and programmatic success of Luna Negra Dance Theater.”