Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Chicago Symphony Orchestra Review – The Fifth Year is Spectacular

Entering Symphony center

The applause of the audience that filled Symphony Hall for the fifth annual collaboration of HSDC and CSO expressed its appreciation over and over.  Five years after a brief hallway conversation between CSO artistic head, Martha Gilmer and HSDC’s artistic director, Jim Vincent, the collaboration continues to bear fruit.  The music enhanced the dance and vice versa.  It was an amazing evening.

The stage was a simple black floor; the CSO musicians on a slightly raised platform ranged along the back wall formed a backdrop for the dancers and intensified the dancers’ movement. Lighting created various moods but movement ruled.  Being able to see the members of the orchestra, as they played, enhanced the power of the dance and the rhythm of the dance enhanced the feel of the music. Even the movements of the conductor, Edwin Outwater, and the page-turners became part of the dance.


The range of music was so great that the stage crew almost seemed to be following choreographed movements as it moved instruments and chairs on and off stage between numbers.  The dancers’ costumes were simple, ranging from a business suit to barely clothed.  Dances were characterized by fluidity, precision, and powerful rhythm, often evoking a visceral response. The fine line between athletics and dance was continually at issue as the movements that required energy and power always came back to a lyrical and beautiful form, always technically perfect.

The CSO alone began the evening with Mendelssohn’s serene “The Hebrides Overture, op26”.  The tympani (Donald Koss) lent a deeper, darker, more powerful feeling, foreshadowing the energy that was soon forthcoming.

Symphony Center without HSDC

Excerpts from Johann Sebastian Bach’s " Brandenburg Concertos” accompanied the dancers in “counter/part,” choreographed by Jim Vincent in 2002.  By the end of this number, it felt as thought the dancers were an extension of the orchestra.
Bartok’s “Romanian Folk Dances” followed without dancers except perhaps in one’s head, as the music is so evocative of dance.  Short and captivating, it was suddenly intermission.

“The Constant Shift of Pulse” set to John Adams “Hallelujah Junction” and choreographed by Doug Varone was the evening’s special bonus and will receive its official company premiere during the HSDC’s 2008 Spring series March 26-April 5 at the Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millenium Park.  The music is an intricate work for two pianos. Pianists Elizabeth Buccheri and Sylvia Wang brought down the house along with the full company of dancers, whose fluid, continual, and unpredictable movement was breathtaking.


Welsh jazz musician and composer Karl Jenkins’ Movement 2: Largo accompanied Jim Vincent’s 2007 work, “Palladio”. This work parallels the three design prinicipals of 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio and especially incorporates harmony and balance, which was mirrored in the dance of two couples.


Next, a stagehand set something precisely at the front and center of the stage; those who sat close knew what it was, but the rest of the audience wondered about it as the stage crew rearranged the orchestra chairs once more. When clarinetist John Bruce Yeh Igor walked on stage to play Stravinsky’s “Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo”’ it was clear that this was a clarinet stand. These three short monologues (using two clarinets in different registers) are among Stravinsky’s “biggest” little works. These works were charming and whimsical, a little entremet between the power of Adams and the Bernstein to follow.


The dancers returned in “SF/LB”set to Leonard Bernstein’s “Prelude, Fugue and Riffs” and choreographed by Daniel Ezralow, 2004. It was evocative of Charlie Chaplin’s movements in ” Modern Times”.  This piece explores the very essence of movement and makes a statement about the unity and conformity of modern society.

What will year six bring?  We can hardly wait to see.

Dance photos: Todd Rosenberg Photography, courtesy of HSDC

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