Hubbard Street Dance ‘Spring Series’ Review — Marching to a Different Drummer

 

Florian Lochner & Ana Lopez in 'Violoncello'

Confession #1: I am a Hubbard Street Dance Chicago groupie. I am not alone in this. Preceding the opening of “Spring Series,” Chicago’s movers and shakers gathered in support of the troupe [see write-up below]. Moments before the performance, the City’s dancer-in-chief, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, kibitzed in the lobby of the Harris Theater.

 

 

Chicago dancer-in-chief Mayor Rahm Emanuel (Leanne Star photo)

Confession #2: As much as I admire Hubbard Street and the consistently high standard of the dancing, of late I have fretted that its programs have become too uniform — gray-clad dancers twisting to discordant notes, their bodies flexed in angst.

 

I needn’t have worried. “Spring Series” puts the snap back into their step, with fresh choreography adding zest to the mix. Nowhere is this more evident than the world premiere opening number, Imprint. Few choreographers could be more familiar with the capabilities of Hubbard Street’s dancers than rehearsal director Lucas Crandall, who takes full advantage of the troupe’s talent and highlights the physicality of the dancers’ bodies.

 

Jesse Bechard in Jardi Tancat

Like Genesis in reverse, Imprint moves from urban to rural. It unfolds with seven dancers (Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Alice Klock, Emilie Leriche, Adrienne Lipson, Ana Lopez, Jessica Tong) clad in black up to their noses, anonymous and armored for contemporary life (costume design by Branimira Ivanova). They dissolve into shadows as they run behind a translucent screen (lighting by Jason Brown), only to emerge as marchers, stomping in boots and platform heels to the urgent music of Tábor Radosti. At the edge of the stage they perform a seated line dance to Lincoln Chase’s “The Nitty Gritty,” then fly into a mosh pit.

The scene transforms with seven dancers (Jesse Bechard, Michael Gross, Elliot Hammans, Jason Hortin, Florian Lochner, David Schultz, Kevin J. Shannon) sheathed in flesh-colored bodysuits. Starting with a lyrical pas de deux — picture Adam and Eve discovering one another’s bodies — the scene swells to include the others, a society of dancers moving to music by Johann Sebastian Bach and Mikael Aldén as well as to the live drumming of dancer David Schultz. Stitched together, the two parts of Imprint reveal nothing less than a portrait of humankind. Kudos to Crandall.

Florian Lochner & Ana Lopez in 'Violoncello'

Next up are two works by Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato. New to Hubbard Street is Duato’s delightful “Violoncello,” a tantalizing snippet of Duato’s full-length 1999 tribute to Johann Sebastian Bach: Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness. Performed to Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major, “Violoncello” paints the scene of a seated musician in a powdered wig (Florian Lochner or Michael Gross) lovingly stroking the strings of his instrument (Ana Lopez or Jacqueline Burnett) with an oversized bow. The conceit is as striking as is it simple. The more animated the music, the more acrobatic and arcing the movements of the woman/cello.

Hubbard Street dancers in Jardi Tancat by Nacho Duato

When Duato’s Jardí Tancat was first performed by Hubbard Street in 1997, it forever changed the company, adding a European perspective to the vision of founder Lou Conte. Originally choreographed in 1983 for the Nederlands Dans Theater, Jardí Tancat (Catalonian for “Closed Garden”) depicts three couples as they plant and thresh, accompanied by ancient Spanish folk songs. The dancers wear costumes reminiscent of Martha Graham, and in fact they move in the flex-footed agrarian ballet very much in the style of Martha Graham — a Catalonian version of Appalachian Spring.

Jessica Tong and Emilie Leriche in Jardi Tancat

“Spring Series” ends with a reprise of Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, performed in Chicago in 2015. The wintry piece features a backdrop of falling snow dramatized by Tom Visser’s dazzling lighting design. Initially the falling snow is a horizontally lit band that frames the seven dancers and contrasts with their unisex outfits of charcoal pinstriped pants and vests, designed by Jake Visser and Pite. The costumes highlight the dancers’ bare arms but obscure their legs against the dark background.

Typically, Pite seeks out the creation of original music, but Solo Echo draws much of its punch from classical composer Johannes Brahms. That music fuels the piece’s defined movements and showcases the strength and graceful athleticism of the Hubbard Street dancers as they scuttle, crablike, across the stage, first in opposition and then in unison.

 

 

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Season 39 Spring Series

Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph St., Chicago

Through March 19, 2017

Tickets $30–$102 at Hubbard Street Dance or 312-850- 9744. The Spring Series marks the launch of HSDC’s DreamTix program, which will provide free tickets to some 1,200 Chicago Public School students and their guardians during the series.

Dance photos: Todd Rosenberg

 

“Bold Moves for Bold Women”

Bold Moves host committee member Dietrich Klevorn (right) with her mother, Ann Wadington (Leanne Star photo)

For a 14th consecutive year, Hubbard Street held its “Bold Moves for Bold Women” event before the opening night of “Spring Series.” The offices of Baker McKenzie offered dazzling views of the city skyline and lakefront for the networking reception and fundraiser to celebrate female leadership in business, the arts and Chicago’s cultural communities.

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