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 Ram?rez 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.