MCA’s Hubbard Street Dance Chicago danc(e)volve: New Works Festival Review - Crisp Choreography that Keeps You Wide-Eyed


There were six new works performed at the MCA by Hubbard Street Dance, and a movie recap of the troupe’s trip to Spain, Morocco and Algeria on behalf of the US State Department. 


The athleticism and grace of the performers were a non-stop stimulant--- with absolutely no weak links in the group.  Each piece’s choreography was starkly original, delighting in different ways but all transporting us to that place of awe that only modern dance can reach.


First up was “Agape” choreographed by Andrew Wright and performed by Brandon Lee Alley, Alicia Delgadillo, Emilie Leriche, Felicia McBride, Lissa Smith, and Richard Walters.  It opens with a woman in a body twitch and expands as various dancers streak across the stage reaching and reaching.  Hands, a constant symbol of giving and taking, were so finely tuned to spread or contract fingers just so, in varying oppositions to larger body movements.  Reportedly the choreographer’s dance training began when he was eight, which is not surprising to one digesting an expansive movement vocabulary at work in this piece.



Second up was misnomer “Ditto” choreographed by Terence Marling and featuring Brandon Lee Alley, Emilie Leriche, and Ana Lopez.  This was two consecutive duets and despite the name, a seeming demonstration of that thing called chemistry in coupling as in all spheres of human interaction.  The fluidity of Ana Lopez’s movements seemed all the more so because the prior dance had less of a feel of a couple “fit”.


The third dance was “Andalea” choreographed by Penny Saunders, reportedly pregnant with her first child while she developed the work. The dancers were Jesse Bechard, Jacqueline Burnett, Jonathan Frederickson, Johnny McMillan, Jessica Tong and Quinn B. Wharton.  The choreographer says this piece is about the fundamentals of human experience.  While I am not personally able to make this cerebral connection, it was a wonderful montage of changing energies for our already alert eyes to ingest. 



“For the Wandered” dedicated “to those who feel they’ve lost their way”, was choreographed by Jonathan Frederickson moving from Bach and Beethoven to newer music.  Dancers included Garrett Patrick Anderson, Alicia Delgadillo, Alice Klock, Ana Lopez and Johnny McMillan.  Picture pointed Devils Tower-like small sculpted props moved about with great purpose.  Because of these sculpted props we become more aware of how each of the dancers’ bodies, costumed to echo the sculpted peaks, were also creating boundaries for fellow dancers.  It was as if we were watching an interior landscape of a mind’s eye flow across the stage.  Though titled to speak of wander, all movements and pairings of dancers were done with detailed precision and nothing even remotely like a wandering mind.




“stop…stop…stop..” in six short minutes brought us to smiling giggles.  Choreographed by Terence Marling with a sound mix of mutterings such as “..not going to happen..” This piece tells the story of two young people paired to each other by some grand matchmaker.  The would-be lovers and the grand master roles were danced by Lissa Smith, Richard Walters and Quinn B. Wharton with wonderful comedic timing.


The dramatic finale was “Grey Horses” choreographed by Robyn Mineko Williams and danced by Garret Patrick Anderson, Jonathan Frederickson, Alice Klock, Emilie Leriche, Johnny McMillan, Richard Walters.  Early on there was a brilliant touch of dancers’ hand movements enacting the horses’ canters.  Overall, the piece was like a moving montage of muscular horses in various poses such as one finds in statues throughout public parks.  More than any other piece, this showcased the athletic prowess of the performers.


Prior to intermission we were also shown a video about a US State Department sponsored tour for members of the troupe to Spain, Morocco and Algeria. Most of this was obviously good will generation on steroids.  The group danced with Downs Syndrome students at a school, with deaf children and more. 


The new season has been announced and it promises to keep our interest on how the medium of modern dance and the movement vocabularies they are developing will evolve.  Now world-renowned Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is part of the story of arts flourishing amidst a fertile audience in Chicago.  At a recent fundraiser Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton shared, “Hubbard Street’s first gigs brought in 105 dollars each. Twenty dollars went to each of the four dancers and 25 bought some basic costumes and gas for the car…”  


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has followed the vision of its founder Lou Conte in ever new directions.   Danc(e)volve is an excellent name for the creativity they consistently deliver on stage.


Photos: Todd Rosenberg 



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