Hubbard Street Dance ‘Summer Series’ Review — It’s All in the Family as Cerrudo Choreographs for his Colleagues

Still in Motion

Madrileno Alejandro Cerrudo trained in Spain and danced with European troupes before joining Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2005. Four years later he became the company’s first resident choreographer. Now, at age 34, Cerrudo has been entrusted with choreographing Hubbard Street’s entire Summer Series program at Harris Theater. The result is like a custom-made suit: a perfect fit that shows off the extraordinary capabilities of Cerrudo’s fellow dancers.




The program sandwiches a world premiere between two previously performed pieces, each distinct enough to keep the audience interested but all united by grace, quirkiness, and black-and-white motifs — a kinetic Oreo to be savored one lick at a time.



Ana Lopez & David Schultz in 'Extremely Close'


Extremely Close, which Cerrudo created for the company in 2008, opens the program. Before a single dancer appears, a trickle and then a deluge of white feathers tickles the audience as it blankets the stage, a sort of deconstructed Swan Lake. Set to music for solo piano by Philip Glass and Dustin O’Halloran, Extremely Close was developed with the help of IIT architecture students. It showcases the geometry of dance in juxtaposition to several large square panels propelled by the dancers: Jessica Tong and Andrew Murdock in a balletic pas de deux; Kellie Epperheimer, Alice Klock, Ana Lopez; and Garrett Patrick Anderson, Johnny McMillan and David Schultz. Cerrudo is especially skilled at orchestrating stage magic. As the panels shift, they open to reveal tableaux of dancers, their elongated, oppositional movements frozen in spotlights.



Ana Lopez & Andrew Murdock in 'Still in Motion'


The world premiere Still in Motion begins in silence, the aural equivalent of stillness. The dancers — Garrett Patrick Anderson, Jacqueline Burnett, Jonathan Fredrickson, Michael Gross, Alice Klock, Ana Lopez, Andrew Murdock and Jessica Tong — are posed on the diagonal, a motif that suffuses the piece, giving it the flow of a bias-cut garment.




Their stillness quickly gives way to movement as they run to disperse. In Still in Motion Cerrudo capitalizes on the dancers’ uncanny ability to move in sync without sound. But just as movement replaces stillness, the silence soon surrenders to two plucked notes, then more. The score is a rich smoothie of music by Max Richter and a half dozen other contemporary composers, an eclectic mix of commonalities and contrasts that parallels the shift from stillness to movement — and sometimes magically combines both, as when prone dancers undulate with movements so subtle they practically whisper.



Jacqueline Burnett, Jonathan Fredrickson & Ana Lopez in 'Still in Motion'


One of Cerrudo’s strengths is designing interesting segues between opposing sections, some shifting abruptly, others nearly imperceptibly — again, those small surprises that keep audiences engaged. Especially effective in Still in Motion are trios of dancers playing off one another and the whole. Striking red-edged costumes by Branimira Ivanova add to the appeal.



Jonathan Fredrickson & Jessica Tong in 'Little mortal jump'


Little mortal jump premiered in 2012, Cerrudo’s tenth piece for Hubbard Street and already an audience favorite. It opens with a dancer racing down the steep aisles of the Harris Theater — a blurring of audience and stage much more common in drama than in dance — only to disappear into the pit just as another dancer pops up atop one of the mysterious cubes (designed by Cerrudo) that act as backdrop and 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 like butterflies emerging from chrysalises. The opening suggests that life never stops, and we humans enter it and exit it as if scrabbling onto a moving bus.




The 10 dancers include Jesse Bechard and Ana Lopez in a postmodern pas de deux, along with Garrett Patrick Anderson, Jacqueline Burnett, Jonathan Fredrickson, Jason Hortin Alice Klock, Kevin J. Shannon, David Schultz and Jessica Tong. All are standouts as they 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.






Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series


Harris Theater in Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph Dr., Chicago


Through June 14, 2015


Tickets from $25 at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago or 312-850-9744




Photos: Todd Rosenberg


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