danc(e)volve: New Works Festival review — Hubbard Street mines talent of developing choreographers and strikes gold

On opening night of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s danc(e)volve: New Works Festival, artistic director Glenn Edgerton came on stage at the Museum of Contemporary Art to share his thoughts on the importance of the two-weekend-long festival, which presents new works created by developing choreographers, most of them Hubbard Street dancers and directors. “If you can imagine all this talent untapped,” said Edgerton, “it would be a crime.”


Judging by the works presented in Program A on opening night, Chicago’s premiere contemporary dance troupe would do well to look in-house for choreographers, a few of whom can already reach the high barre set by the international stars who choreograph many of the company’s works. Whatever these developing choreographers might lack in experience, they more than make up for in their experience as dancers, and specifically as Hubbard Street dancers. They know what their bodies can do and how best to showcase those strengths.


Two of the pieces in Program A deserve special attention for fulfilling the mission of the festival. Recall and Bonobo were fresh and exciting, yet still polished to a high luster. Either work could be incorporated into the Hubbard Street repertoire just as it is.


David Schultz and Jessica Tong in Recall

Recall is the work of Robyn Mineko Williams, a Hubbard Street dancer whose previous choreography includes the winsome Harold and the Purple Crayon for Hubbard Street 2. In Recall Williams matches precise, nearly robotic movement to the insistent beat of a mix of The Chromatics and Chris Menth. Dressed by costume designer Rebecca Shouse in ties, vests and/or T-shirts like workers who are too spaced out to remember if it’s Casual Friday, dancers Jacqueline Burnett, Jason Hortin, Pablo Piantino, David Schultz, Kevin Shannon and Jessica Tong — all superb — interact like atoms in a molecule. Each dancer seems to respond to a slightly different tempo, even as they share the same space and music. Simple, effective lighting by Matt Miller adds to the intrigue.


Emilie Leriche, Alicia Delgadillo and Felicia McBride in Bonobo

Program A concludes with Bonobo, choreographed by Hubbard Street dancer Penny Saunders, winner of National Choreographic Competition to create a new work for Hubbard Street 2. With an eclectic musical score by Astor Piazzolla, Bonobo and Arvo Pärt mixed by Terence Marling, Bonobo draws its inspiration from traveling vaudeville tent shows, an image reinforced by beige and cream skirts, vests, and slacks by Shouse that move beautifully and manage to look old-fashioned and sexy at the same time. The dancers present sometimes comic vignettes, from a bump-and-grind chorus line of three women dancing to French vocals to a solo dancer tangoing with his panama hat. Hubbard Street 2 dancers Alicia Delgadillo, Nicholas Korkos, Emilie Leriche, Felicia McBride, Johnny McMillan and Andrew Wright move with the fluidity and polish of the senior troupe.


Andrew Wright, Felicia McBride and Nicholas Korkos in Path and Observations

Three other pieces make up the rest of Program A, and all are worthy of attention. In Path and Observations choreographer Johnny McMillan propels the dancers across a stage strewn with leaves to the music of Pekka Lehti, Liu Sola and Mari Boine, blending deep-throated chanting with strings. McMillan says he drew his inspiration from an image of a “nomad girl in a beautiful parka” and broadened his work to reflect the Sami people of Scandinavia, indigenous reindeer herders. McMillan’s sensual choreography matches the striking score perfectly, even with the dancers hampered by bulky brown long-sleeved garments.


Johnny McMillan and Emilie Leriche in Never was

Resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo brings his assured touch to Never was, a short piece for two spot-lit dancers, Emily Leriche and Johnny McMillan, who give their all. Set to the Baroque music of George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell, Never was has the Hubbard Street signature all over it.

Jesse Bechard in Untitled Landscape


Jonathan Fredrickson choreographs Untitled Landscape, which begins with the dancers spotlighted within a circular stained-glass-like mandala projected onto the stage of the floor. The volume of the symphonic music by Henryk Gorecki threatens to drown out the dancers at times, and when the mandala fades, the piece seems to loose focus. Most effective is a tableaux of the dancers clasping hands, like a line of children.


Program B includes Never was as well as three new works: …and other stories of imperfection, choreographed by Alice Klock; Facets of the Same, by Taryn Kashock Russell; and The Fantastic Escape of the Little Buffalo, choreographed by Clébio Oliveira.


One special pleasure of danc(e)volve is watching the dancers on the stage of the MCA theater. With perfect sightlines for all, it seems especially well suited to highlighting these new works for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.


Danc(e)volve: New Works Festival

Program A: January 19, 20, 28, 29

Program B: January 21, 22, 26, 27

Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 East Chicago Avenue, Chicago

Tickets: $35; $28 for MCA members; with limited $10 student tickets

Tickets through MCA box office at www.mcachicago.org or 312-397-4010 or Hubbard Street box office at www.hubbardstreetdancechicago.com or 312-850-9744


Photo credits: Todd Rosenberg

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