Harold and the Purple Crayon Review - A Dance Treat for All Ages with Hubbard Street 2

Yarinet Restrepo and David Schultz

Any parent who has tried to sneak a bite from a Happy Meal knows that some options for children can be tempting. At Hubbard Street 2 , the second company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago ,  both children and adults can indulge without guilt in a top-flight treat, “Harold and the Purple Crayon.” Indeed, “Harold” is so tasty that HSDC might want to take a page from its junior company.

"Harold" asks a policeman for help finding home

 
Every detail of the production hits the right note, from the children’s programs with word games and take-home box of crayons provided by sponsor Target, to the production’s inventive choreography, playful dancing, and clever props and costumes. The music, by Chicago Indie-rock composer Andrew Bird
, deserves special mention, and if parents want to hear more, they should check out one of Bird's performances.

Jamal Rashann Callender sets Harold's purple crayon in motion


The new work is inspired by the 1955 classic children’s book by Crockett Johnson, which tells the story of a young boy named Harold, who, unable to sleep, whips out his purple crayon and choreographs his own adventures, a metaphor ready-made for dance.

Performers in shadow create images


Taryn Kaschock Russell, director of HS2, became excited about the idea of bringing Harold to life on the stage while reading Harold and the Purple Crayon to her son. Telling stories through dance isn’t new, but HS2’s telling of Harold’s story is especially compelling and completely accessible to the whole audience. It helps that the production uses multiple media, with narration by Joel Cory and scenic and projection design by Ryan Wineinger .

Alice Klock and David Schultz as birds

 
But even without the narration, the superb choreography by Hubbard Street’s Terence Marling
and Robyn Mineko Williams , communicates the tale clearly, demonstrating that children may appreciate a nuanced performance as much as adults. The production opens with one of the Harolds — all six dancers take turns portraying Harold, turning the character into a true Everychild — thrashing about in a bed that seems frighteningly tall. And indeed, Harold will fall out of that bed, unhurt, seemingly buoyed by his charm. When Harold wants to scale a mountain all six dancers play Harold at once. The dancers play other roles in the story as well, but confusion is kept at bay by a simple device: When playing Harold, the dancers wear adorable one-piece pajamas by costume designer Rebecca Shouse .

It takes more than one "Harold" to scale a mountain


Each of the dancers, identified in the children’s program by their ages (HS2 dancers are between 18 and 25), favorite color crayons and interests, brings high energy and good spirits to the multiple parts they play. They are Jamal Rashann Callender, Alice Klock, Nick Korkos, Yarinet Restrepo, Katie Scherman
and David Schultz — and they are all splendid.

Yarinet Restrepo, Nick Korkos, Katie Scherman


Hubbard Street bills the production as interactive. Given the restraints of a packed house, there is no way that children can dance in the aisles. But the dance does engage the audience in limited movement. When the narrator asked the audience to wave their arms to form an ocean for Harold’s boat, everyone at the performance I attended happily complied, including one extended family with a babe-in-arms of about six months. The baby’s father hoisted his son into the air to whoosh him through the gentle waves, a Baryshnikov in the making. At other times viewers were invited to clap, stomp, and “draw” in the air. Most children sat through the 50-minute performance without squirming, although their interest may have flagged during a few of the more extended dance sequences.

Alice Klock with one of the many pies Harold draws


As a major component of HSDC's Education & Community Programs, HS2 reaches more than 35,000 people annually through performances in schools, community centers and theaters. Dance as education? “Harold” fulfills that mission smartly.

For information on future performances go to:http://www.hubbardstreetdance.com/education_home.asp

www.hubbardstreetdance.com/education_home.asp

Related Family Workshop

The Youth Dance Studios at  Hubbard Street Dance Center
1147 W. Jackson, Chicago
$5 per person

Registration ends December 17

 

SPRING SERIES:
March 17–20
at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park

Thursday, March 17, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 18, 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 19, 8:00 p.m.

Sunday, March 20, 3:00 p.m.

PROGRAM
World Premiere by Ohad Naharin
World Premiere by Sharon Eyal

Photos: Courtesy of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

 

 

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