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Center Stage: Meet our Board of Directors

Cristina Benitez

Cristina Benitez 

At the heart of any arts organization's success is the leadership of its Board of Directors. Since its inception in 1999, Luna Negra Dance Theater has been fortunate to have a dedicated and talented leadership team that has enabled the company to grow and fulfill its vision. Led by Maria Gracias (President), Frank Talbert (Vice President), Jorge Solis (Secretary) and Alvaro J. Levy (Treasurer), the Board of Directors has expanded significantly in the last year to include talented individuals who have brought their unique expertise and passion to the organization: Cristina Benitez of Lazos Latinos, Kristin Conley of Blue Cross Blue Shield, Jose Gomez of Allstate Insurance, David Hahn of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and Steven R. Loevy of the The Loevy Consulting Group.

Among them, Cristina Benitez, President of Lazos Latinos, a marketing and branding consulting firm specializing in the Latino market, just published a new book entitled "Latinization: How Latino Culture is Transforming the U.S." Benitez provides valuable insights into the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., defining Latinization "as a movement, a force that represents a series of Latino values and trends that are shaping contemporary American culture." Latinization focuses on "the positive influences Latinos exert on their new country, covering topics from culture to the high value Latinos place on family relationships. 

To learn more about "Latinization," visit or order a copy at or from online booksellers Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders.

Luna Negra Dance Theater is also delighted to welcome the following new Board Members: Jennifer Edgcomb of GEM Realty Capital Inc., Felix Mantilla of Allstate Insurance Company, Madeleine Plonsker, Civic Leader, and Sonia Sandoval of The Northern Trust Company.

In The Wings: Vanessa Valecillos
Photo by Kristie Kahns, featuring Vanessa Valecillos.
Photo by Kristie Kahns, featuring Vanessa Valecillos.

Vanessa Valecillos is a founding member of Luna Negra Dance Theater. Born and raised in Venezuela, Vanessa joined Ballet Nacional de Caracas Teresa Carreño under the renowned choreographer Vicente Nebrada at age fifteen. She moved to the United States to further her dance training at the North Carolina School of the Arts and relocated to Chicago in 1997, where she quickly met with Eduardo Vilaro. Vanessa tells us more about her experience with Luna Negra Dance Theater.

How did you get involved with Luna Negra Dance Theater?
When I first moved to Chicago, I met Eduardo through a friend for a 4th of July celebration barbecue at the Lake. He asked me to perform with him "Ognat," a work he had choreographed. Then, we performed another work of his, "Amor y Dolor" with Victoria Vargas and Maria Schaeffer. That's how it all started.

Eduardo had the idea for the mission of Luna Negra since the beginning. He wanted to work with Latino choreographers and bring back the culture to the community, to keep that side of him alive. When I started, I felt that with Luna Negra, I could be truly myself and I didn't have to force myself to fit in. Originally, I didn't plan to stay in the States. But I saw that there were many more possibilities here. I don't think I would have had the opportunity I have now with Luna Negra back home. I really feel that this [Luna Negra Dance Theater] is truly me.

Read more 

On Stage: Luna Negra At the Harris Theater

Photo by Audia, featuring Vanessa Valecillos & Ricardo Garcia.

Photo by Audia, featuring Vanessa Valecillos & Ricardo Garcia.

Don't miss this fiery and passionate evening of contemporary dance fused with TANGO SALSA MAMBO!
Friday, October 19 at 8:00 pm
Saturday, October 20 at 8:00 pm
Tickets $25-55

Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Learn more about the program

Luna Negra Dance Theater takes a fresh look at Latin dance with works that explore and deconstruct traditional Latin dance movements into innovative and original contemporary works.

amily Matinee - NEW!
Sunday, October 21 at 3:00 pm
Program specifically tailored to young audiences (kids 8 and up) featuring other repertory works.

Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Learn more about the program

Enjoy a dance performance with the whole family, featuring an engaging and interactive introduction to the dance works by the Artistic Director and the dancers. This is a creative and fun way for kids age 8 to 80 to learn about dance and the process of creation while enjoying a spectacular performance. 

Click here for more...

Chicago Dancing Festival
The Chicago Dancing Company
Lar Lubovitch & Jay Franke, Directors presents
Chicago Dancing Festival
in association with Museum of Contemporary Art & City of Chicago, Millennium Park

Wednesday, August 22 at 7:30 p.m.
FREE. No tickets required. Visit for more information.

See some of the country's most celebrated dance companies on one stage for FREE. Don't miss this one-night-only event at Millennium Park's Jay Pritzker Pavilion featuring dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Ballet Florida, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago and San Francisco Ballet.

Official airline American Airlines and official hotel Palmer House Hilton. Additional support has been provided by The Oakmark Funds and Athletico.

1016 N. Dearborn Parkway
Chicago, IL 60622
 Top photos by Kristie Kahns and Audia 


News Releases 2007 - 2008

Press release- RTG Dance's Once Removed: Peripeteia

by Rachel Thorne Germond
October 12, 2007

ONCE REMOVED: Peripeteia

Choreography by
Rachel Thorne Germond
(RTG Dance)

Friday - Sunday, October 12th - 14th &
Thursday - Sunday, October 18th - 21st , 2007
All shows at 8:00pm

at Links Hall
3435 N. Sheffield Ave., 2nd floor, Chicago, IL

The show opens Friday October 12th through Sunday October 12th, with a second weekend of performances Friday October 18th through Sunday, October 21st. All Shows are at 8:00pm at Links Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield Ave. There will be a Post-Performance Discussion to follow Friday and Saturday night performances. Tickets are $15 general admission and may be purchased at the door, online at, or reserved by calling Links Hall at (773) 281-0824. Discounted group rates are available for groups of 10 or more.

Once Removed: Peripeteia
This evening length dance by Rachel Thorne Germond (RTG Dance), to be presented for two consecutive weekends at Links Hall, is part of Germond's current research into ways that we make sense of loss and disaster. The dance debuted as a work in progress titled Tragic Dance at Links Hall in June 2006 and has been performed in various states of progression as it has been developed for the past year and a half. Once Removed: Peripeteia, the new title, refers to the turning point in a drama after which the plot moves steadily to its denouement. It is discussed by Aristotle in the Poetics as the shift of the tragic protagonist's fortune from good to bad, which is essential to the plot of a tragedy.

Among its strategies, Once Removed: Peripeteia collides the principles of classic tragic drama as set out by Aristotle with the formal, emotionally detached aesthetics of postmodern dance. Once Removed: Peripeteia is arranged as a collection of fragments: Dressed in formalwear and sculptural costumes by artist/designer by Pate Conaway, the dancers move through a series of tableaux that evolve into thoughtfully choreographed sequences. Conaway also contributes to the set and prop design. Renown Chicago composer Michael Zerang has created original music for this production which is embedded within and serves to contextualize a musical score by Germond- incorporating fragments of popular songs and disparate music by artists such as the Smiths, Neil Diamond, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Video artist Mason Dixon will provide an environment of video-projected tragic imagery.

Dancers/Performers: Rachel Thorne Germond, Lucy Riner, Johannah Wininsky, Jeannine Salemi, Julie Haller,
Ambryn Melius, and Jennifer Guglielmi

Collaborators: Michael Zerang (Composer), Pate Conaway (Costumes & Set Design), Mason Dixon (Video Projection)


Rachel Thorne Germond (choreographer/performer/artistic director of RTG Dance)
To create her work, Rachel Thorne Germond draws on a knowledge and fascination with contemporary and historical artistic, biographical, and literary sources ranging from authors such as Gertrude Stein and Dave Eggers to icons of Popular Culture such as Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis Presley. Intrigued by a wide range of random and disparate inputs from modern life, Germond employs multiple strategies of investigation in her choreography, creating ambiguous juxtapositions and new, unfamiliar languages. This work is highly theatrical, laden with rich referential imagery of the culture-at-large while maintaining a personal and intimate relationship with the audience through it's and raw, gutsy dancing.

Germond has been presenting her work in Chicago since 2000, primarily at Links Hall, but also in performances with the Girlie Q Variety Hour, the Chicago Kings, and in festivals such as the Estrogen Festival, Full Circle Festival, Other Dance Festival and Around the Coyote. In New York City she has presented her work at such venues as the Joyce Soho, Movement Research at Judson Church, WAX, Chashama, The Merce Cunningham Studio, Dixon Place, amongst others. Ms. Germond is a graduate of Cornell University (1986) where she began dancing while obtaining degrees in Fine Arts and Comparative Literature. She achieved an MFA in dance and choreography (2000) at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana where she was a Fellow. Her training includes intensive study of Klein/Mahler technique with Barbara Mahler and with such notable teachers as Mary Anthony, Anna Sokolow, Pedro Alejandro, Tere O'Connor, and Nancy Topf. She was the recipient of the city of Chicago's CAAP grant in 2003, 2005, and 2006 and formed her Chicago-based pick up company, RTG Dance, in 2004. For more info see:

Michael Zerang (composer)
Michael Zerang was born in Chicago, Illinois and is a first generation American of Assyrian decent. He has been a professional musician, composer, and producer since 1976, focusing extensively on improvised music, free jazz, contemporary composition, puppet theater, experimental theater, and international musical forms. He has collaborated extensively with contemporary theater, dance, and other multidisciplinary forms and has received three Joseph Jefferson Awards for Original Music Composition in Theater, in 1996, 1998, and 2000. He has over sixty titles in his discography and has toured nationally and internationally since 1981 with an ever-widening pool of collaborators. He was the artistic director of the Link's Hall Performance Series from 1985-1989 where he produced over 300 concerts of jazz, traditional ethnic folk music, electronic music, and other forms of forward thinking music. He continued to produce concerts at Cafe Urbus Orbis from 1994-1996, and at his own space, The Candlestick Maker in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, from 2001 - 2005. He has taught as a guest artist at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in performance technique, sound design, and sound/music as it relates to puppetry; rhythmic analysis for dancers at The Dance Center of Columbia College, Northwestern University, and MoMing Dance and Arts Center; courses in Composer - Choreographer Collaborations at Northwestern University; music to children at The Jane Adams Hull House. He has held workshops in improvisational music and percussion technique and teaches private lessons in rhythmic analysis, music composition, and percussion technique. See more info.

Pate Conaway (costume design)
Pate Conaway is a graduate of Chicago's Second City Training Center and received his MFA from Columbia College, Chicago. His work explores the connection between visual art and performance. After learning to knit, Pate spent five weeks at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago knitting a pair of mittens large enough for him to sleep in. His work explores the fusion of sculpture, installation, and interactive performance. For Tragic III, Pate worked with the dancers to create shrink-wrap costumes that are a combination of knitting, crochet, and knot work. Some of Pate's work can be seen at

Mason Dixon (video projection)
Mason Dixon teaches motion graphics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and owns a small media design company, Design After Next. Mason has designed public sculpture and video performances for the City of Chicago, South By Southwest Interactive, Museum of Contemporary Art, Boston Center for the Arts, Cambridge University UK and Burning Man. Mason Dixon's work has investigated the specific subjects of: the moving image as a performance medium; aesthetics and warfare; identity hacking; and public art.

* * * * *

"Gutsy Dancing, Sharp Satire…..Smart Choreography"
-The Philadelphia Inquirer

September 12, 2007 Press Contact: Melissa Simo
For Immediate Release Press Contact Tel. #: 708.955.3221
Photos Avail by Request Alternate #: 773.895.4186
Ticket Reservation (773) 281-0824

M-F 3:30

Chicago Dance Crashes into Center for Performing Arts

Dominique Bolden

Issue date: 5/4/06 Section: Features

Media Credit: Andrew Lawrence

Members of Chicago Dance Crash perform a piece that represents a romantic relationship Saturday night at the Center of Performing Arts.

Straying away from the typical dances students are exposed to on MTV, Chicago Dance Crash Multi-Disciplinary and Contemporary Dance Company performed Saturday night, illustrating how dancing is supposed to be done.

The MC for the night was ISU Alum Michael Dice Jr. who gave a brief, comedic introduction to the dancers and had them display some of their favorite moves.

The show featured six skilled dancers, Christopher McCray and Marissa Moritz, the founders of CDC, and performers Lyndsey Rhoads, Kyle Terry, Laura Tomlinson and guest dancer Lonnie Johnson.

The range of talent among the dancers was endless, which brought a combination of variety, style and energy to the show.

Starting off the hour long presentation, three female dancers performed, for the first time, a dance called "TOJ and High Resolution," choreographed by Kyle Terry.

The dance was about relationships and how there is a constant fight between attraction among sexes.

A lot of acrobatics and animalistic type movements were incorporated into the dance, making it unique.

Next to perform was Christopher McCray, who choreographed "Lazy Bums." The CPA filled with darkness and spotlights were placed on McCray, placing emphasis on his every movement.

McCray's dance exemplified how much one can do with limited space. During some points of the dance, he laid on the floor as if in pain, but would get up suddenly and do a flip or strength requiring move.

McCray's movements were dramatic and contorted. "Lazy Bums" was definitely an unusually executed dance.

Following McCray's performance, three dancers presented "What Acceptance Must Feel Like," choreographed by Marissa Moritz. A slow, monotonic jazz-like song accompanied the dancers, setting the mood throughout the performance.

For the majority of the time the ladies were doing the same moves, but then all of a sudden a dancer would do something dissimilar and the attention was placed on that dancer.

This gave the audience members multiple things to watch.

After Moritz's dance, Kyle Terry gave the audience a complex, yet heart-stopping demonstration of the Afro-Brazilian art form called capoeira.
T-F 10:30
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M-W 11:30

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