With the world premiere of Little mortal jump, choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo thinks outside the boxes to create a surprise-filled centerpiece for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s well-paced Spring Series at Harris Theater. The literal boxes — seven-foot-tall black cubes designed by Cerrudo, their edges sometimes illuminated — become fanciful props for the dancers, who scale them, dive from atop them, spin them furiously and, in one delightful instance, Velcro themselves to them like flies caught on sticky traps before peeling themselves away.
The piece begins with a single blast of sound that signals dancer Kevin Shannon, stationed in the middle of the theater in old-fashioned suspenders, to race through the audience and into the pit, with Pablo Piantino popping up like a jack-in-the-box atop the mysterious cube. The 10 dancers — who include Jesse Bechard and Ana Lopez in a postmodern pas de deux as well as Jessica Tong, Alice Klock, Garrett Anderson, Penny Saunders, Jason Hortin and Jonathan Fredrickson, all standouts — make their way through a succession of backward-arcing, flex-footed movements that are at once inventive and momentous, like the life cycle itself.
Propelling those movements is a dazzling mix of music that weaves together selections from Philip Glass, Andrew Bird, Alexandre Desplat, Max Richter, Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan and Beirut. Dramatically lit by Michael Korsch, with effective costumes in shades of gray and beige by Branimira Ivanova, Little mortal jump addresses the chances we take, in life and in dance, and the rewards that may follow.
The Spring Series opens with Following the Subtle Current Upstream, choreographed by Alonzo King to the music of Miguel Frasconi, Zakir Hussain and Miriam Makeba. Fresh as springtime itself, the piece speaks with a vocabulary of elegant arcs and turns. With the sound of thunder promising ample rain, the dancers appear as shoots of new grass popping up from the earth, especially the women clad in elegant chartreuse costumes by Robert Rosenwasser. The dance unfolds with a trio of male dancers stepping over bars of red light (lighting design by Axel Morgenthaler) and ends with a burst of speed, that current traveling upstream.
The program closes with the quirky, techno-robotic Too Beaucoup, by Israeli choreographers Sharon Eyal and Gaï Behar. Integral to the piece is dramatic lighting by Avi Yona Bueno and a pulsing soundtrack stitched together by Ori Lichtik from scraps of Gang of Four, Vicious Pink, Dépêche Mode, Ivan Pavlov, Leonard Cohen, Cole Porter and others. Created for and premiered by Hubbard Street last spring, Too Beaucoup is worth watching again as the performances deepen and become more nuanced. Wearing striking, flesh-colored unitards and wigs designed by the choreographers that obscure their identities while at the same time highlighting the differences in their individual bodies, the dancers move in lockstep much of the time, step-ball-changing in an idiosyncratic tap dance. And then, like a robot that has suddenly rebooted, a dancer will break from the fold, free at last, or for a moment at least.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Spring Series 2012
Harris Theater in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Dr.
Thursday, March 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, March 16 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 17 at 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, March 18 at 3:00 p.m.
Tickets: $25–$94; 312-850-9744 or hubbardstreetdance.com
Photos: Todd Rosenberg