Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Review – 2010-11 Season Opens with Hispanic and Spanish Choreographers

Stimulating performances happen when fine dancers are challenged by interesting choreography, which is just what the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Fall Series offers until October 3 at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park. This evening of diverse works includes music and movement to suit a variety of tastes.

The program of four dances includes world and Chicago premieres, three of which were created expressly for the company by Hispanic and Spanish choreographers.

Meredith Dincolo in Blanco photo:Christopher Duggan

The Chicago premiere of Blanco, the sixth and newest piece by company dancer and resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, of Madrid, provides a dramatic opener for the program.

Smoke flows down from the rafters onto a dark stage where Laura Halm, Jessica Tong, Meredith Dincolo, and Robyn Mineko Williams are lined across the stage, each isolated in a shaft of light.

The women move with beautiful control to brooding piano music with its stressful, insistent bass notes. While the music eventually changes into a flowing melody and the dancers become free to move across the stage, briefly disappearing into the darkness upstage, then reappearing, they end where they began, each alone in a pool of light.

Jason Hortin and Benjamin Wardell in Deep Down Dos Photo:Christopher Duggan

Deep Down Dos is Cerrudo’s other 2010 piece, and it’s a collaboration with Chicago Symphony Orchestra composer-in-residence Mason Bates, who provided Music for Underground Spaces.

The roar of a subway train accompanies the forward rush of a train headlight aimed at the dancers revealed in dim light. The male commuters in suits (but no shirts), who are pushing, pulling, and hurtling past each other, are joined by women. The bustling music keeps the dancers moving urgently in precise patterns, while the train light skims along the back of the stage. Darkness is always brooding around the edges.

For the final duet, the music becomes eerie, representing the rumbles and pops of tectonic plates in their own slow dance deep underground.

Jessica Tong in Blanco Photo: Christopher Duggan

Blanco and Deep Down Dos are companion pieces enhanced by the dramatic lighting of Nicholas Phillips and the costume designs of Branimira Ivanova. When the stage was brightened for the dancers’ bows, we were finally able to see those pretty velvet dresses the women were wearing.

After the beautiful brooding darkness of Cerrudo’s works, the stage lightens for the world premiere of  Physikal Linguistiks, a fusion of ballet and street dance, and the first work for Hubbard Street by choreographer Victor Quijada, the son of Mexican immigrants. The agitated, jittery soundscape of sampled snatches of classical music was created by collaborating composer Jasper Gahunia (DJ Lil Jaz), an East Indian/Filipino musician.

Jessica Tong in Physikal Linguistiks Photo: Kristi Pitsch

On a bare stage is a lone man in street clothes. He’s joined by two men who position his arms, legs, and torso in an aggressive way until what seems ominous suddenly becomes a funny series of “corrections” that ballet students will recognize.

The groupings of men and women, the stage settings, and the emotional tone keep changing. The movement shifts from long, linear phrases to short, staccato bursts. One group administers a long-distance hip bump and another group reacts. The dancers have more than one way of telling us that whatever we do affects others.

Penny Saunders and Jason Horton in Physikal Linguistiks Photo: Todd Rosenberg

The humor keeps popping up in this quirky work that stretches the limits of the stage and “dance.” An unconventional stage exit, a late entrance by an unexpected performer, a bit of rehearsing, and a confessional monologue are all part of this innovative piece.

The heavenly Baroque music of Arcangelo Corelli’s Concerti Grossi No 6 introduces Arcangelo, a work by renowned Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, who personally came from Spain to set the Chicago premiere work on the dancers. Duato also created the costumes and the stunning stage design.

Penny Saunders and Jesse Bechard in Arcangelo Photos:Todd Rosenberg

Suspended on three sides of the stage, the set for this “dance reflection of heaven and hell” has golden panels that recall the gold leaf backgrounds of medieval icons. The dancers move in front of the black curtains showing beneath the panels. Three angular plastic “volcanoes” on the floor are lit from within and periodically attract the dancers, who peer down into their glowing depths.

The dancers, in leotards and tights, emerge from the shadows most often in male/female duets. Lovely, lyrical movements are followed by crunched shapes; a trill in the music is translated as a flutter of the feet; a man swings a woman like a pendulum; dancers flex feet and bend wrists; movements are suspended, then melt into the next phrase.

An aria from Alessandro Scarlatti’s opera Il Primo Omicidio accompanies the final section. A shaft of cloth tumbles down from “heaven,” and the dancers wrap themselves in it, move in back and front of it, and reach their apotheosis with it in the final transcendent moments of this impressive work.

All three choreographers, in a Q and A after the opening, talked about the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers: their receptiveness, dedication, and eagerness to test and stretch their limits.

Their praise is for company dancers Jesse Bechard, Christian Broomhall, Jacqueline Burnett, Alejandro Cerrudo, Meredith Dincolo, Kellie Epperheimer, Laura Halm, Jason Hortin, Ana Lopez, Pablo Piantino, Alejandro Piris-Niño, Penny Saunders, Kevin Shannon, Jessica Tong, Benjamin Wardell, and Robyn Mineko Williams.

Harris Theater in Millennium Park
205 E. Randolph Drive
The program is the same for each performance.
Friday, October 1   8:00pm  
Saturday, October 2   8:00pm  
Sunday, October 3   3:00pm  


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