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RDF Artist Spotlight: Eric Rivera & RADAR Dance

Dogtown is excited to present the next pair of Richmond Dance Festival artists! This week, we take a look into the process of Eric Rivera and RADAR Dance, both local artists.

Holding an MFA in choreography from SUNY Purchase college, Eric Rivera is a prolific choreographer and teacher whose work has global reach. He spent the wealth of his performing career with Ballet Hispanico, where he performed across the U.S. and the world for 13 years. Additionally, Rivera assisted in the creation of new work for the company across the duration of his time there. He also performed with Minnesota Ballet as principal dancer, Ballet Theater of Pennsylvania, Danza Jazz de San Juan and in the European tour of West Side Story. He has appeared as guest artist in different companies such as Connecticut Ballet, Thomas Ortiz Dance, Ballet Concierto de Puerto Rico, Westchester Ballet and Brooklyn Ballet. Rivera currently is an Assistant Professor at VCU's Dance and Choreography department, and is an active member of many dance communities. Eric will be presenting En el Vació at RDF this year. His work will be presented the first weekend of RDF, June 11th and 12th.

Photography by Katrina Boone

Is this your first time at RDF/Dogtown? If so, what drew you to RDF? if not, what about RDF brought you back?

Yes, it is my first time with RDF. I love that we have a local festival where we can share our artistry. It will be my first time sharing my work locally outside of sharing my work at VCU or U of R.

If you have performed at Dogtown before, what is one of your favorite memories of your time spent here?

I haven't performed at Dogtown. I always enjoyed all the performances that I have participated in as an audience member. Having the opportunity to have my work be seen at RDF is not only exciting for me, but most importantly, it has allowed for my graduating student to have the chance to have a live performance as she graduates from VCU.  RDF has been an integral outlet for cultivating artists for many years and, in these uncertain times, a much necessary space where we can come together and grow, explore, share and transform our minds into a new space through art.

What is integral to your work as an artist?

The movement quality of my dancer is integral to my work. Steps have no meaning unless the dancer is putting their heart and soul into the steps. It is the how and the why that matters to me and not a meaningless step. In every work that I create, I choose what the dancer can offer. Ultimately the result is transformed through the dancer's artistry, not through my choice of steps.

How has the past year impacted your creation process for this piece?

In my work, I am usually really involved with my dancers. It has been challenging with the needed social distancing due to COVID. COVID has taken away the personal space we typically share in the studio. It has also questioned how I typically choreograph, which has forced me to grow as an educator and choreographer.

Is there anything else you would like the Richmond community to know about you and/or your work?

My work was premiered in April in film. The RDF festival will be the premiere of the work in person as a live show how I originally had envisioned. I am grateful for this opportunity and for the chance to be part of this impactful festival!

Find Eric on Instagram

RADAR Dance, co-directed by Laura Gorsuch and Kara Priddy, is a local company that has been serving the Richmond community for 10 years. RADAR centers work that aims to be original and stimulating with subject matter focusing on the human experience. They are passionate about sharing art with Richmond audiences. RADAR will be presenting Collective Fortitude the first weekend of RDF, June 11th and 12th. Learn more about them below.

Is this your first time at RDF/dogtown? If so, what drew you to RDF? if not, what about RDF brought you back?

Dogtown has played an integral role in the life of our company, as RADAR has held its annual spring concert there for the past 10 years. We've been accepted to RDF twice before and are thrilled to be on the list to perform again this year. It's always an honor to be included and recognized in our hometown, and we love sharing the stage with other dance artists. It's so rare that we get to collaborate and connect with fellow dance companies in a performance setting, and we are grateful to Dogtown and RDF for providing this opportunity.

If you have performed at Dogtown before, what is one of your favorite memories of your time spent here?

With this being RADAR's 10th season, there are so many memories associated with Dogtown! I think for me (Laura), walking into the theatre space for the first time right after it opened just signified that dance was alive and well in Richmond. For smaller companies like ours, Dogtown has provided rehearsal and performance space that's affordable and accessible, allowing us to create and present our work in a sustainable way. One of my (Kara) favorite memories happened backstage during performances of Darkside of the Moon, which was a collaboration between Richmond-based companies RVA Dance Collective, Dogwood Dance Project and RADAR. During one of RVA Dance Collective's numbers, there was a moment where every company member exited stage right, ran backstage from one side to the other as fast as they could, and entered again coming down a slide on stage left. At some point during show week we decided they needed a boost of energy and inspiration while running, so we created a soccer mom tunnel for them to pass through, dancing and silently cheering for them as they ran by. This was so fun and successful we decided to do it the next night as well, but in true dancer fashion, coordinated our moves with one another for a more polished and professional soccer mom tunnel. These choreographed soccer mom tunnels escalated, getting more and more ridiculous each show, and reached their peak at the final performance where we had a rave with glow sticks as the dancers ran by. It was definitely one of the most fun backstage moments I've ever had!

What is integral to your work as an artist?

We strive to create evening length work that is concept driven and has a clear and compelling throughline from beginning to end. Starting the creative process with an overarching idea for the entire concert gives us a strong point of view from which to build our work. This specificity not only helps us hone in on exactly what it is we want to say, it also allows us to dive deeper into a particular topic and really explore it's breadth and depth. We love the cohesion this approach brings to our work and the long lasting impact it has on both us and our audiences.

How has the past year impacted your creation process for this piece?

The piece we're performing for RDF this year is from a larger body of work called beingHUMAN which premiered in April 2016. While this particular piece wasn't created during the pandemic, we did put together a Dancing in the Park series in collaboration with GrowRVA to celebrate our 10th anniversary. We started rehearsing in the fall on Zoom and eventually made our way to rehearsing in person in parking lots, company member backyards, city parks, and for a handful of us, an actual studio! It was quite a challenging process, especially when we were learning and rehearsing choreography virtually. Important details such as facings and angles, spatial relationships between dancers, musicality and dynamics and nuances in the movement were so much harder to decipher on Zoom. But we persevered and gave it our best shot, knowing we'd have a chance to clear things up once we were able to meet in person. Creating and presenting work in this environment has definitely made us better problem solvers and strengthened our resolve as dancers and choreographers. And getting to perform in parks around Richmond for live audiences has been incredibly rewarding after such a difficult year!

Is there anything else you would like the Richmond community to know about you and/or your work?

We have one final performance in our Dancing in the Park series and would love to invite everyone to come hang with us in the park! It's on Saturday, June 26, at the GrowRVA farmers market in Bryan Park. We'll be performing twice, once at 10am and once at 11am. You can get your fruits and veggies and watch some dance all in one go! We're also looking forward to presenting our most recent evening length work, Play, in November of this year at Dogtown. We were just three short weeks away from premiering this lighthearted and whimsical work, which explores the seven patterns of play, when Virginia went into lockdown last spring. We've had to postpone a number of times, but are beyond ready and excited to finally bring it to the stage this fall! Keep an eye out for concert dates and times as we get closer to November!

Find RADAR on their website and on IG.

Dogtown is proud to present local talent and introduce the community to those making work in the area. Don't miss both Eric and RADAR's work in RDF; get your tickets today!

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