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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s ‘Fall Series’ Review — Flawless Technique Enhances Old and New Works

By Leanne Star

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Michael Gross, Emilie Leriche and ensemble in 'Terrain'

A talented actor could read the phone book to dramatic effect. So too could the gifted dancers at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago apply their technique and flair to “London Bridge is Falling Down” to yield something ethereal.


Ensemble in 'Niebla'

But perfect execution does not necessarily make for a perfect program. Neither does topnotch choreography guarantee success. The key to a winning program may be in the contrast between the pieces, the writing between the lines, so to speak. And in this regard, HSDC’s “Season 39 Fall Series” may not have given Hubbard Dancers as much variety as they deserve. Twain’s famous remark about Henry James — that the author chewed more than he bit off — may apply.


Jeffery Duffy (far left) in 'Terrain'

Each of the four pieces that unfolds on the stage of Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park is beautiful in its own right. But seen one after the other, a certain sameness sets in. Yes, the audience understands the power of silent openings and segues, with dancers marching to the beat of an unheard drum. Yes, the Euro-style flexing and twisting is provocative. But to experience these characteristics again and yet again is to risk losing the engagement they were meant to provide.


Ana Lopez & Andrew Murdock in 'Niebla'

That said, each of the pieces truly is beautiful. First up are two previously performed numbers from Czech-born, Holland-based choreographer Jiří Kylián, part of his“black and white” series. In Falling Angels, eight women (Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Kellie Epperheimer, Alice Klock, Emilie Leriche, Adrienne Lipson, Ana Lopez and Jessica Tong) move like synchronized swimmers, their slicked hair and black tank suits blending them into one organic creature, a sea anemone with a single nervous system fluttering to a minimalist percussive score by Steve Reich.


Ensemble in 'Terrain'

Six men (Jesse Bechard, Jeffery Duffy, Michael Gross, Elliot Hammans, Jason Hortin, Florian Lochner, Andrew Murdock, David Schultz or Kevin J. Shannon, depending on the performance) take over for Kylián’s Sarabande, set to J.S. Bach’s second partita for solo violin, electronically arranged by Dick Heuff and amplified by the dancers’ thumping bodies and roaring voices. In a series of tormented movements, the men stretch their T-shirts as if pulling their skin and lower their pants around their ankles to shackle themselves.


Jacqueline Burnett & Jeffery Duffy in 'Niebla'

In New York choreographer Brian Brooks’s first commissioned work as the inaugural Choreographer in Residence for the Harris Theater, the ensemble of 17 dancers becomes one in Terrain. Wearing shades of bone and gray (costume design by Karen Young), the dancers function as vertebrae on a single spine. The troupe’s unmatched ability to move as a unit — one that fractures and reassembles — makes them a perfect match for Brooks’s goal of organic design, set to a mix of music by Todd Reynolds and Terry Riley.


Ensemble in 'Terrain'

The entire ensemble returns (where do they get the energy?) for Niebla (“Fog”), a world premiere by Choreographer in Residence Alejandro Cerrudo. Solo piano scores by J.S. Bach, Franz Liszt and Franz Schubert buoy the dancers in a series of athletic movements. But as good as they are, the dancers are nearly upstaged by the lighting design, spectral pyramids by Michael Korsh.



Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Season 39 Fall Series

Through Sunday, Nov. 20, 2016

Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph St., Chicago

Tickets $30­–$102 at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago or (312) 850-9744


Photos: Todd Rosenberg

Published on Nov 19, 2016

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