Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series Review — Executing ‘The Impossible’

Going to a performance by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is like entering a favorite restaurant and seeing what the chef has in store. The menu at Hubbard Street may list a selection you’ve enjoyed in the past or push you to try something new, but one thing is certain: even if a dish includes ingredients that may not be to your taste, that dish will be expertly prepared. In HSDC’s Summer Series program at the Harris Theater, the execution of those specialties is as elevated as always, with an intriguing world premiere by resident choreographer/top chef Alejandro Cerrudo that most will find tasty indeed.

 

Ana Lopez & Jonathan Fredrickson in 'The Impossible'

 

“The Impossible” is Cerrudo’s 13th world premiere by Hubbard Street and a fine example of how the Madrid native is forever pushing the boundaries of what this talented troupe can do. The title is derived from one of the pieces of music used in “The Impossible,” Fernando Velazquez’s “Is It Over?” from the album “The Impossible” (with additional music by Nico Muhly, Richard Hickox, Alexandre Desplat, Patrick Doyle, Nils Frahm, Marcos Balter, Carter Burwell and Jonny Greenwood).

 

Johnny McMillan in 'The Impossible'

Another way to interpret the title might be that this series of vignettes contain elements that seem antithetical to dance, to grace itself, and yet grace pervades it — a seemingly impossible feat. The piece opens with a puff of smoke to reveal dancer Johnny McMillan, dramatically spot-lit (lighting design by Michael Korsch), red suspenders strapped over his bare chest (costume design by Branimira Ivanova), theatrically puffing a cigar — a most un-dancerly thing to do.

 

A bigger shock comes when dancer Ana Lopez pulls out a gun — and fires it! — an even more un-dancerly thing to do. A spatter of blood appears, as Lopez is abetted and comforted — another paradox — by Jonathan Fredrickson. The couple’s first appearance on stage is perhaps the most disconcerting element of all: they are elderly hunchbacks, dancers who have deflated their perfect postures.

 

Jessica Tong & Andrew Murdock in 'The Impossible'

As foils to Lopez and Fredrickson, Jessica Tong and Andrew Murdock playfully portray a young couple. Especially effective are the black-suspendered men who join McMillan in a testosterone-fueled chorus line: Garrett Patrick Anderson, Jesse Bechard, Jason Hortin, David Schultz and Kevin J. Shannon. “The Impossible” engages the audience throughout.

 

Jason Hortin & Kellie Epperheimer in 'Gnawa'

“The Impossible” is featured throughout the Summer Series, mixed with pieces that have appeared at Hubbard Street before. All the programs open with Nacho Duato’s sinuous “Gnawa,” with music by Rabih Abou-Khalil, Juan Arteche, Hassan Hakmoun and Adam Rudolph. All sixteen dancers shine, with a featured duet by Kellie Epperheimer and Jason Hortin.

Hubbard Street dancers in 'Gnawa'

 

Three performances include William Forsythe’s haunting “Quintett,which the choreographer created for Ballet Frankfurt (the title is the German spelling of quintet) in 1993. The piece juxtaposes balletic movements with skittering, slapping movements to sustain a steady tension between the skillful dancers: Jacqueline Burnett, Ana Lopez, David Schultz, Jonathan Fredrickson and Kevin J. Shannon. The music that is integral to the piece, British composer Gavin Bryar’s scoring to the reedy voice of a street person singing the poignant hymn “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet,” may be one of those ingredients that some find distasteful, but in a repeat hearing the looped lyric seemed less grating.

 

Jacqueline Burnett & Kevin J. Shannon in 'Quintett'

Included on Friday night in place of “Quintett” are Ceruda’s “PACOPEPEPLUTO,” set to songs popularized by Dean Martin, and Jiří Kylián’s 1989 “Falling Angels.”

 

 

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series 2014

Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr., Chicago

7:30 pm Thursday, June 5; 8 pm Friday, June 6 & Saturday, June 7; 3 pm Sunday, June 8

Tickets: $25 – $99; 312-850-9744 or Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

 

Photos: Todd Rosenberg

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