Hubbard Street Dance Spring Series Review - A Great Night of Dance, and a World Premiere

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Season 38 Spring Series took place at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Street, from March 17 through March 20, 2016. The stated core purpose of this great dance ensemble is “to bring artists, art and audiences together to enrich, engage, educate, transform and change lives through the experience of dance”. The program for Friday night, March 18, was just such an expansive enterprize. The costumes throughout the program were modern, remarkable in execution and designed by Branimira Ivanova, whose partnership with Hubbard Street began in 2002. Ivanova, who holds both a BFA and an MFA, is the recipient of many award nominations and prizes.  She has worked with numerous choreographers, both in-house at Hubbard Street and as guest artists.

Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong and Ana Lopez in "The Impossible" by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo

First on the bill was “I am Mister B”, choreographed by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, a native of Spain who led the Chicago dance company Luna Negra Dance Theater as it’s artistic director for almost four years. The piece was originally commissioned by the Harris Theater and the “See The Dance” Consortium, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, for Hubbard Street Dance, and premiered on March 12, 2015. The dance, with spoken text by Mario Alberto Zembrano, is set to the romantic and pliant strains of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Third Suite for Orchestra in G Major, (Opus 55, 1984), which was also primarily used as the score for George Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations”, first performed in 1947 by American Ballet Theater. The performance is “an exuberant fast-paced homage” to  George Balanchine, and as the narrator explains, all 12 of this work’s dancers represent the great choreographer.

Hubbard Street Dancers Jeffery Duffy, Emilie Leriche, Jacqueline Burnett, Jesse Bechard, Alice Klock, Penny Saunders and Michael Gross in "I am Mister B", by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano

The costumes were surpassingly elegant. All of the dancers wore black pants with white shirts and stylized black ties and to begin, they all sported navy blazers and all wore thin bow ties. As the narrator, supposedly George Balanchine, reading  somewhat too loudly, recited “facts” about Balanchine and American Ballet Theater, the company danced more and more quickly, their flying feet and exaggerated arms seeming almost boneless. They often appeared as couples, sometimes seeming to be mirror images of one another. The music, naturally reminiscent of the strains of “The Nutcracker”, yet uncannily modern in feel, reflected the weightless lifts and strongly balletic lifts and turns- the women sometimes lifted the men! The multiple navy-blue draperies echoed the colors of the blazers, until the dancers removed them, and their pristine white shirts shimmered. The lighting, designed by Jared B. Moore, enhanced the costumed ensemble  and gave the feeling of a luminous shadow floating behind the acrobatic performers, who often appeared to be marionettes, moving in a stunning swiftness.


Hubbard Street Dancers Ana Lopez and Andrew Murdock in "I am Mister B", by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano

After the intermission came a much-loved piece from dancer and Hubbard Street’s resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, formerly from Spain. “The Impossible”, his thirteenth piece for Hubbard Street, premiered at The Harris Theater on June 5, 2014.  Set to the music of a large number of musical artists and danced by 10 members of the company, the ballet is meant to suggest the life of a couple who have grown old.  Together, they look back at earlier phases of their lives and throughout  raise “intriguing questions about memory, mortality, partnership, and the resilience of the human spirit”. The dance begins, most memorably, with a puff of smoke from a lit cigar; as the smoker and five other male dancers powerfully and precisely sweep across the stage, an old couple gingerly yet lovingly perform a duet. They are soon joined by a younger version of themselves, who seem to help them perform. At one point, a gunshot appears to hit a framed image, which transforms into a table. The costumes, which include colorful socks and suspenders, add just the right touch of whimsy to this often heart-rending double duet-within-a-dream.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in "Imprint" by Lucas Crandall

The final piece of the evening, “Imprint”, created for this spring series by Lucas Crandall, Hubbard Street’s former rehearsal director as well as a choreographer of note, was danced to the music of Lincoln Chase, Johann Sebastian Bach, Michael Alden, and live percussion.  Crandall has said of the piece, “I sought to crete an experience both visceral and visual”. The piece is nominally about human beings caught in a stampede. The ensemble’s dancers start out clad in black- the ladies wearing VERY high heeled boots, and  the entire ensemble end up almost nude.  Their turtlenecks virtually cover their faces, with a see-through area from which they can peer out as through a mask at the events which cause them to rush for cover.The movements were, as always, perfectly executed and exhilarating: one can’t imagine any real panicking crowd this graceful or coordinated.


Hubbard Street Dancers in "Imprint" by Lucas Crandall


For more information on this great troupe, go to  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago - see what is coming.


Photos courtesy of Todd Rosenberg

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