StarQuestian Spotlight – Chicago Contemporary Dance Theatre
February 1st, 2017 by Mariel Rosen
For this month’s StarQuestian Spotlight series, I choose to highlight the Chicago Contemporary Dance Theatre. Established in 1998, Chi-CDT promotes dance arts stemming from a historically black lens. February is Black History Month, and Chi-CDT’s educational philosophy continues to highlight the achievements of African-American dancers while inspiring the next generation.
I had the opportunity to speak with Chi-CDT’s directors and learn about their commitment to presenting choreography that reflects their dancers’ experiences.
Training at Chicago Contemporary Dance Theatre is rooted in African-American traditions. As a studio, how do you stay accountable to that vision?
We pride ourselves in representing the black aesthetic and being recognized in the competitive dance world. Our feet are cemented [to our legacy], and there is a commitment to making sure our dancers are exposed to these traditions and movement styles. As directors, we make sure that artistically we continue to cultivate the black aesthetic [through the dances we create and present].
Do you see the competitive dance world becoming more diverse? Are there any areas in which you’d like to see the community continue to improve?
Yes, we feel the competitive dance world will become more diverse and glad to be a part of paving the way. [In terms of improvement] yes, we would love to see more diversity on the judging panel. For example, [we hope to meet more] judges that know, understand, and appreciate concert dance and the black aesthetic.
How do the themes of racial inclusion and equality inform your choreography at Chi CDT? Do you think dance can help promote a more inclusive society?
Racial inclusion is always an awesome topic! It’s real! We see it! We experience it! It’s a pleasure being able to embrace the artistry of racial inclusion and tell our story through movement, as well as depicting stories and issues that sometimes are overlooked through [the medium of] dance.
What role do you see Black History Month playing as the Black experience in America continues to evolve?
Black History month is a great time to celebrate the achievements of African Americans, however for us, every time we perform we consider it Black History – as we are telling our story as well as representing the black aesthetic.
How do you feel like the mainstream popularity of black dancers like Misty Copeland, Chloé Arnold’s Syncopated Ladies crew, and Desmond Richardson helps towards increased black representation in the dance world?
While we are excited about the mainstream popularity of black dancers we make sure our team members are connected to Raven Wilkinson. [She] broke the color barrier in 1955 as first African American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company. [We also encourage our dancers to study groundbreakers like] Janet Collins, Alvin Ailey, and Talley Beatty – as these are the artists that paved the way for the mainstream today. It’s important for our dancers to know the foundation, and understand [the] roots of the black artistic aesthetic.
How do you promote leadership, community, and self-expression within the Chi-CDT team?
Leadership, community and self-expression within the Chi-CDT team is promoted by having outings that encourage all students attend. [In addition,] the younger dancers have a dance buddy – (some to home them with skills or choreography) – and older team members help tech dances [as well as] act as teacher assistants in classes. We are always looking for ways to develop the whole dancer not just the physical.
Do you know an exceptional StarQuestian or StarQuestian studio? Email firstname.lastname@example.org the dancer’s (or studio’s) name, state, and why you think they should be featured! You may see your nominee interviewed in a future StarQuestian Spotlight blog!
Mariel Pauline Rosen is the StarQuest social media concierge. She likes shiny things and believes in your sparkle!