photo: courtesy of AUDIA
At one point during my conversation with Eduardo Vilaro, artistic director of Luna Negra Dance Theater, he sprang up to illustrate how modern and Latin social dance come together with a quick, stylized salsa step. He's an energetic man with an open demeanor, easy smile and sprightly eyes. His enthusiasm and expression has led him to produce exuberant, introspective and veracious choreography for Luna Negra, which he founded in 1999. He strives to form a passionate union between Latin music and contemporary dance, and also to promote the work of emerging young Latino choreographers and dancers.
I had the pleasure of talking with Vilaro, on break from rehearsal, about his artistic influences and flourishing company, which now performs regularly at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
Can you give me a little background on Luna Negra?
The company is about to have its 9th birthday. Our mission is to share the contemporary Latino American experience through a fusion of dance styles and techniques. We want to expose the culture of Latinos in the U.S.—the traditions, the music. It's the greater human experience as well, but shared through the lens of Latino culture.
Hence the choice of Xavier Cugat's music for your latest piece [performed October 19 and 20 at Harris Theater].
I'm interested in people who make movement happen. I feel a real kinship with Xavier Cugat; he was the predecessor of all the big band leaders and helped bring Latin music into the mainstream. He was one man with a vision. And I grew up with his music. We moved from Cuba to the Bronx when I was seven. My parents would play Xavier Cugat records at a time when I was figuring out who I was. Groping with identity is something we all go through, but that music gave me a real connection to my heritage.
You've founded a distinctly Latino project in Chicago. What has the response been from the greater dance community?
I can't tell you how much Chicago has embraced us. We've been commissioned by the Joffrey. We've received so much support both nationally and internationally. I look around and wonder 'how come there isn't more of this?' I'd love to see Chinese, Polish, Russian, all sorts of communities doing the same thing. I think we will see it; it's just a matter of time. There's a lot of support out there, from the city and from the mayor.
You were raised and trained in New York. What made you move to Chicago?
You know, I was done with New York. I danced in Manhattan and I just felt that New York was over-saturated. It's the dance capital of the country, but there wasn't room to start anything new. I came to Chicago because it has such a strong Latino community. Great things are happening in Chicago; I just love it here. I'm really big on Chicago right now.
For more information on upcoming Luna Negra shows, visit lunanegra.org.