Ivelisse Díaz “Bombera de Corazón”

A New City-Wide Production Residencies Project Supports Chicago Dance

Six arts organizations partner to connect local dance artists with closed performance venues in order to explore and develop new works during a challenging time.

With an investment from the Walder Foundation, Chicago Dancemakers Forum is launching a City-Wide Production Residency Pilot Project which matches dance making artists with performance venues (mostly closed to audiences during the COVID-19 pandemic), while promoting new collaborations, paid artistic development, employment
for designers and technicians, and innovative ways of sharing dance with audiences and other supporters. The artists in residence were selected by the host venues in collaboration with Chicago Dancemakers Forum.

The 2021 pilot residencies are:
• BraveSoul Movement at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago
• Ivelisse Diaz at Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center
• La Vuelta Ensemble at UrbanTheater Company
• Rigo Saura at Ruth Page Center for the Arts
• South Side venue (to be announced)

In partnership with Performance Response Journal, a writer—who is also a practicing artist,
curator, cultural producer, and/or all of the above—will be embedded into each residency and paired with each dancemaker/collective while they are in this process of making a new work. Together they share space, process, dialogue, reflection, and creation. Embedded Writers for the 2021 residencies include Ana Daniela, Benji Hart, and Khalid Long.

Two of the venue partners, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center and Ruth Page Center for the Arts, are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. In April, all residency artists and collaborators will be invited to join a Learning Lab co-produced by Chicago Dancemakers Forum and The Harris Theater for Music and Dance (an invitation-only event)

Ivelisse Díaz

Ivelisse “Bombera de Corazón” Díaz was born and raised in Humboldt Park. With 27+ years of learning and continued studies, Ivelisse has become a well-known Afro-Puerto Rican dance creator, vocalist, and leader within the Bomba community. Bomba Is Puerto Rico’s oldest musical expression developed during the 18th century by the island’s African descendants. Ivelisse is a co-founding member of Bomba con Buya and has traveled with the group and as a soloist to Ghana, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Mexico, California, and New York. She is Director/Founder of La Escuelita Bombera de Corazón Bomba school (established in 2009). In 2019 Ivelisse was a Musical Consultant and lead vocalist for Nickelodeon’s cartoon series Santiago of the Seas, and she received the 3Arts Award. 

One of the least documented elements of Bomba in the Diaspora is the Bomba dancing vocabulary, both staged or improvisational, informed by diverse environmental and mostly urban intersectionalities also rooted in African traditions. Seen through the lens of local Bomba dancers but also drummers, Ivelisse’s extensive vocabulary in Bomba includes some traits of Chicago footwork and dance movements that influenced the urban dance scene. It is, in a nutshell, the conversation of resistance that Ivelisse proposes encompassing not only movement but voice and the rhythms of the Diaspora. Her dance language is as deliberate, as it is intentional, holistic and communal. Documenting her journey through this residency also includes documenting four centuries of history of  our community, its anti-colonial efforts, and its efforts towards self-determination and resistance. 

Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center (SRBCC) is the longest-standing Latino cultural center in Chicago. Established in 1971, it was named in honor of Segundo Ruiz Belvis, a Puerto Rican patriot and member of a secret abolitionist society that freed slave children under Spanish rule. In that spirit, SRBCC realizes its mission to preserve and promote appreciation of the culture and arts of Puerto Rico and Latin America, with a unique emphasis on its African heritage. As a Cultural Center, Segundo Ruiz Belvis commits to celebrate, align and make visible Puerto Rico’s African ancestry with artists such as Ivelisse, a Chicago-grown Puerto Rican whose development began at the center over 25 years ago.