Luna Negra: A New Adventure for Moniquilla

Lunatics Kirsten Shelton, M?nica Cervantes & Eduardo Zu?iga. Photo by Jonathan Mackoff.

The irrepressible, glass-wearing, fierce friend Moniquilla is back with her friends Matias and Veronica for another magically crazy adventure in the second year of the Luna Ni?os Family Series presented by Luna Negra Dance Theater. Last year had the trio up against the evil Nico, but with a little help from the audience and a lot of laughter, he turned into one of the good guys. This year Moniquilla enlists his help to find a missing Matias in Moniquilla and the Moon Monster.

The original Moniquilla story (Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter) was the brainchild of Luna Negra Artistic Director Gustavo Ram?rez Sansano for Titoyaya Dance Project in 2008. This year’s installment is written, directed and choreographed by company member Eduardo Zu?iga. He also created the soundscape and set design working with illustrator Patricia Mar?n Escutia and lighting designer Jared B. Moore. With a running time of an hour, this is the first full-length production with Zu?iga at the helm. Sansano liked the work Zu?iga made for the company’s in-house choreography showcase last at the MCA, Luna Neuva, as well as his work for DanceWorks Chicago‘s Dance Chance and wanted to give him a shot at developing the Moniquilla storyline. “We used to joke in Spain that the next one would be in space,” said Sansano. “I didn’t know how to do it, but Eduardo figured it out.”

Zu?iga, 27, is up for the challenge. He’s a natural running rehearsals at their State Street studio and flashes a mischievous grin when talking about the show. He won’t give away all the secrets – there is, of course, a surprise plot twist! – but will divulge the action revolves around an alien and The Book of Magic. Injuries to company dancers may force him to jump in and perform, but for now, he’s enjoying working with his peers on this contemporary, family-friendly tale of magic, friendship and fun.

Illustration by Patricia Mar?n Escutia.

Luna Negra Dance Theater presents Moniquilla and the Moon Monster at the Ruth Page Center, 1016 N. Dearborn, Friday, Nov. 30 at 7 pm and Saturday-Sunday, Nov. 1-2 at 3 pm.

Tickets are $15; visit www.lunanegra.org or call 312.337.6882.

 

Adventures in Dance

"Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter". Photo by German Anton.

This weekend, two local dance companies are staging children’s shows set to entertain both kids and adults alike.? Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s (HSDC) second company, HS2 brings back last year’s hit Harold and the Purple Crayon at the Harris Theater and Luna Negra Dance Theater (LNDT) launches its children’s dance series Luna Ni?os with the Chicago premiere of Monaquilla and the Thief of Laughter at Stage 773.? Both one-hour performances are interactive, incorporate video projections and designed specifically for young audiences.? Ticket for both shows are $15.

HS2 premiered Harold in 2010 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC and then to packed houses here in Chicago (read my preview here).? This year’s show based on the beloved children’s book by Crockett Johnson promises a new cast and vamped up lighting design (Mattew Miller) to compliment the sets and projections (Ryan Wineinger) and costumes (Rebecca Shouse).? Chicago composer Andrew Bird provides the music with HSDC dancer Robyn Mineko Williams and HSDC Artistic Associate Terence Marling choreographing.

Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter, which premiered in Spain with Titoyaya Dance Project in 2008, has its U.S. debut this Saturday.? Created by LNDT Artistic Director Gustavo Ram?rez Sansano, Moniquilla is a mystery adventure styled after Scooby Doo and Indiana Jones (Sansano’s favorites as a kid).? Moniquilla enlists the help of her friends Matias and Veronica to help her find out why the children across the world can’t laugh anymore.? A narrator and video projection/sets by Luis Crespo help the story along, but it is the audience that ultimately must solve the mystery.? A bicycle with sidecar, swinging axes, snakes (egads!), spies, and of course a villain add to the story set to a dramatic score including Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights from Romeo and Juliet and classical flamenco music.? “It was a? good chance to use music that I loved, but never found the right fit for,” says Sansano.? “When I was thinking about the music, I thought a lot about Walt Disney.? He used to make all the soundtracks for the movies.? Every single movement was in the music.? It was real choreography.”? Just because it’s for kids doesn’t mean this choreography is simple.? Sansano’s trademark style involving fast, quirky movements with seamless transitions is on full display along with some slapstick moves reminiscent of the Keystone Kops.? I sat in on a run of the first half of the show last week and I can’t wait to see how it ends!? It’s fun, funny, and as Sansano says, “a treat for the senses.”

Hubbard Street 2, Harold and the Purple Crayon, Dec 3&4 at 2pm

Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312,334,7777

Luna Negra, Moniquilla and the Thief of Laughter, Dec 3 at 10a & 1p, Dec 4 1&4pm

Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont, 773.327.5252