4 out of 4 stars
40 years strong, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago stuns with its Season 39 Summer Series at Harris Theater for Music and Dance. The program features a plethora of styles the company has seen through the decades, including The 40s and Georgia by Lou Conte, Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section, an excerpt from Resident Choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces, as well as pieces by Jim Vincent, Crystal Pite, William Forsythe, and Lucas Crandall. A versatile collection of performances honoring the company’s long legacy. “The Summer Series programming is a celebration of everything that Hubbard Street is and has been for the past forty years. It puts the evolution of the company in the spotlight featuring the most beloved pieces of each decade of our history,” says Glenn Edgerton, Artistic Director. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago grew out of the Lou Conte Dance Studio at LaSalle and Hubbard Streets in 1977, when Lou Conte gathered an ensemble of four dancers to perform in senior centers across Chicago. Conte directed the company for 23 years, during which he initiated and grew relationships with emerging and established artists, such as Nacho Duato, Daniel Ezralow, Ohad Saharan. A multitude of collaborations flourished under Conte’s direction and continue to bloom under Edgerton’s progressive leadership and creativity whilst also forming significant new partnerships with large Chicago institutions such as the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, The Second City and more.
Beginning with more modern selections, Lucas Crandall’s Imprint (Duet) opens the night with a soft examination of a detailed movement in a magnetic duet. The intimate detailed moves of the dancers play out within a circular pool of light. A lovely piece to ignite the celebration of the company’s anniversary. One Thousand Pieces is a stunning work choreographed by Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. Internationally renown, Cerrudo has choreographed 15 works to date for Hubbard street since 2008. The water section of One Thousand Pieces performed for the summer series is only part of the original evening length piece. A complex trifecta of light, smoke and water entices the eye on a 1/4 panorama view of the stage. Michael Korsch, lighting design, and Thomas Mika, set and costume design, along with Cerrudo transforms the blank canvas of stage into a world of its own. The focus narrows onto a watery plane as the smoke billows downward while a cast of blue light makes the scene look magical. The multiple use of elements is complex but not bulky, an important feature when making a vision become a reality in the art world. This aura of mysticism enhances the work, as dancers extend great arched moves in unison and navigate such a dangerous surface. Fluid limber motions paired with such a visually appealing atmosphere engages the audience. Jessica Tong and Jesse Bechard are mesmerizing! Their duet cinches in all the elements that somehow fit perfectly together when they take the stage. Their synced motions and control is awe striking. Even down to the transitions of dancers on stage is non disruptive as they walk silhouetted back through the mist upstage. This allows the audience to fully dive into this beautifully created moving image.
Breaking the pace, Crystal Pite’s self-aware work entitled A Picture of You Falling plays with repetitive voice over narration and physical athleticism. A piece more akin to the modern works Hubbard leans towards. The audio experimentation and turbulent movements of Jesse Bechard is incredible. Very reminiscent of a dark version of “Make ‘Em Laugh” from Singing in the Rain, in which Donald O’Connor performs a song and dance known for its extreme physical difficulty, featuring dozens of jumps, pratfalls, and two backflips. Bechard gives an exemplary show of a dancer in their element. Not just as a paired body tied to audio, but a reactionary and evocative performer commanding the space. Continuing the transition from more serious abstract works, Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section shines. A fun 70s-esque workout video brought to life with a hyper speed like no other. With a golden drop cloth curtain upstage, the focus is solely upon the dancers adorned in head to toe yellow sports attire, including sweatbands. Santo Loquasto’s costuming style for this piece encompasses such a flare that perfectly pairs with the quick short step footwork and psychedelic beats. A work blended between highlighting classical prowess and relaxed fun, which this company excels at. The high energy on stage is electric and you can palpably feel the dancers enjoying their craft. Filled with huge power moves and leaps, Tharp’s control of dynamic range is self-evident. A highly qualified and acclaimed choreographer, Tharp instills an energy in this work that transcends time.
Lou Conte’s The 40s closes out the night, which is only fitting for a homage to the 40th anniversary. Julie Nagel’s costume design of waiter style crisp white shirts with black bowtie and vests dresses the performance. Alicia Delgadillo acts as band leader orchestrating everyone through the various sequences. With shoulder rolls that are smooth as silk and swing moves that keep you on your toes, this work is for the ages. A chorus line of bodies and smiles fills the stage embodying the era of swing. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago continues to change the game for contemporary dance. A constantly evolving force feeding off their own fiercely energetic innovative style. Hubbard Street offers classes and programs throughout the year. While they continue to grow and celebrate all their accomplishments, one thing is for sure - 40 has never looked better!
To learn more about Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, please visit hubbardstreetdance.com. Season 40 subscriptions and single tickets will be available following the Summer Series online and through the Hubbard Street Ticket Office at 312-850-9744.
Mary Crylen is a photographer and writer based in Chicago. She is an alum of Southern Illinois University of Carbondale with dual degrees in English and Photography. She possesses a sincere passion for the arts and believes zeal shows through work. Follow her on Twitter!