If nothing else, the announcement today that Luna Negra Dance Theatre is "ceasing opperations... due to financial constraints" is a lesson to the Chicago Dance Community to never take things for granted.
This news is the latest installment in Luna's downward spiral. First there was an announcement that they'd be taking a break for a season, then the sudden departure of Artistic Director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano and now this. While not entirely shocking, Chicago Dance is seriously downtrodden by the utter collapse of what we perceived to be a staple of our community.
So, what happened?
So far all we've had are official announcements and statements. Without transparency from Luna's administration we may never know how the million dollar company with a bright future is now in shambles.
If I had to fashion a guess, Luna Negra appeared to rise from zero to hero in the course of a few short years, and I have to wonder if they got a little too big for their britches. Big, expensive projects at big, expensive venues in an already over-saturated dance calendar can quickly thrust any organization into the red. Add to this a huge shift in leadership, and a fiscal desert in arts foundations, and it's a recipe for disaster.
Luna Negra Dance Theatre is brilliant at what they do. Anyone in the arts knows how hard it is to build what Eduardo Vilaro built from scratch, and 14 years later the Chicago Dance Community is grieving. Ironically on the heels of Sydney Skybetter's public apology to dance majors entering the real world, I'd love to think that Luna can come back from this, but it seems as though the writing's on the wall.
Ultimately, one of two things is bound to happen: Luna could garner support from patrons, funders and friends, or they could fade away into obscurity with countless other failed arts organizations. Either way, a company as important as this is an essential lesson in "what not to do."
Even if we never find out what really happened, it's safe to say that mistakes were made somewhere along the line, and Luna Negra may, unfortunately, be remembered for that. But even it they never see the stage again, I have to hope that Luna will also be remembered for all the things they did oh, so, right, too.
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