While not altogether new, the concept of bringing two companies on the same stage for 3 performances last weekend at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance had a unique, and very successful, twist. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and San Francisco based Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s experiment worked well on many levels, from showcasing the two companies’ individual movement styles and dynamics, to uniting the two companies-27 dancers in all-15 from Hubbard Street and all 12 of LINES Ballet-in the third of 3 pieces on the bill. This was the tantalizing and enthralling Azimuth, choreographed by King, but shaped by an environment where the dancers “are free to explore, make mistakes, push themselves, and develop a foolproof intuition that needs no validation from an outside source.”
The first of the 3 pieces, King’s Raza, set to an original Indian tabla percussion score by Zakir Hussain, is stunning in the dancers’ supple movements, evocative of primitive creatures struggle and survival. All arms and legs, which seem to ‘go on forever’, on lean sinuous bodies, they strut, slither, meld into or crawl over each other, and discover and hold either soft or angular poses, sometimes with arms akimbo, reminiscent of stalking or preening birds. It is entrancing to watch how they move, singly, in pairs, or especially in slow work in groups, for you can see them breathe almost as one body, perhaps as a result of the dancers feeling they are a community, a family.
Not having seen this company before, I was mesmerized by these bodies that seemed to defy any bony structure, so elastic and fluid were their movements and bodies. No classical ballet this, but a contemporary approach to dance, yet rooted in the strength, balance, carriage, and extension that classical training provides. Although the piece was a bit long at 40 minutes, the duet performed by Caroline Rocher and David Harvey was a standout.
During a pre-show discussion King spoke of how his dancers must have similar beliefs to his own, so that they can be in sync. “Your body movement tells who you are, not your words. Your body doesn’t lie.” He allows them a lot of freedom to explore and choreograph, which he then synthesizes into a whole through a collaborative process. He emphasized that joy is in achieving the goal and he challenges his dancers to always reach for the goal, which seems to be, in the words of Hubbard Street’s artistic director, Glenn Edgerton, “an otherworldly, spiritual form of expression…” by these “creature-like individuals.” I couldn’t agree more.
Little Mortal Jump, the tenth work by Hubbard Street’s resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, is an intricate, highly technical work that moves from playful, playground-like antics to deeper and more powerful relationships and dark humor. The set design, again by Cerrudo, is striking in its simplicity and size: huge black cubes that sometimes acted as frames and other times, obstructions. They are rolled around and spun on stage, with dancers appearing and disappearing from behind them, culminating in wild spinning as the dancers disappeared.
Azimuth, the combined work of both companies, with choreography by Alonzo King, has a mix of both original music and music of Ben Juodvalkis. The ensemble of 27 dancers opened the piece in a seamless blending of gorgeous bodies moving silently and beautifully together. Again, as in Raza, the dancers seemed to breathe together, with one person initiating a movement, which was picked up immediately by another, then another, until all were moving as a unified body. The effect was musical-- undulating waves and a solid chorus. While King employed numerous combinations of duets, trios, and quartets, his large group work was particularly riveting. As the work progressed, the groups got smaller, ending with an exquisite pairing of Meredith Webster and David Harvey in front of a line of men in dark light.
Let’s hope Chicago sees more of this type of work.
In Los Angeles, CA(Jun 21–23, 2013)
For more information go to: www.hubbardstreetdance.com
In addition, the New Work is a commission by the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at Millennium Park, in celebration of its 10th anniversary next year. Hubbard Street — one of the Chicago venue's founding local organizations — welcomes LINES Ballet to its Spring Series and the World Premiere of the companies’ Shared Program: Hubbard Street presents Little mortal jump (2012) by Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo; LINES Ballet presents the Chicago Premiere of Alonzo King’s Rasa(2007), to an original score by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain; and both companies present the New Work. The New Work receives its World Premiere at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, as part of Hubbard Street’s Cal Performances engagement.
This unique collaboration, billed Hubbard Street + LINES Ballet, is the sole dance and Chicago–based recipient of a 2011 Joyce Award from The Joyce Foundation. The accompanying $50,000 grant has generously supported the collaboration in-process, as did a three-week residency at the University of California, Irvine’s Claire Trevor School of the Arts, and an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The collaboration was previewed at the 2012 Laguna Dance Festival, and has received crucial funding for its tour from the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project.