3.5 out of 4 stars
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s spring engagement celebrated resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo at the Auditorium Theatre this past weekend. For the first full evening performance in twenty years, Hubbard Street provided a sampled overview of Cerrudo’s past decade with the company. “Where I started and where I am today will be interesting for the audience to see,” Cerrudo explained in a recent interview with Chicago Stage Standard. It’s rare to have the opportunity to showcase an artists growth in a single sitting and Hubbard Street did not disappoint.
The evening began with a 2006 choreographed piece entitled Lickety-Split, a fluid journey of sweeping emotions. Each dancer navigates the space beautifully stylizing the focus upon curves and languid extensions. These types of sequences evoke that hard to describe mental satisfaction that is similar to watching a circle being perfectly drawn or peeling off a sticker in one pull. Company member Florian Lochner’s comfortability and control is evident with solid execution that really highlights his talent as a dancer, while also making it seamless as an actor/entertainer with the small comedic moments in the work. As the pace changes, the audience is treated to Adrienne Lipson’s incredibly strong classical movements that transitions the narrative into a separation between individual and collective.This separation is highlighted by the use of rectangular direct light from above - a perfect blend of lighting design and choreography.
Off Screen (2009) is a visual masterpiece blending together the elements of theater, dance and film together into one magical experience. A quote included in the program wonderfully conveys the work’s message and how art informs art. “A film is – or should be – more like music than like fiction. It should be a progression of moods and feelings. The theme, what’s behind the emotion, the meaning, all that comes later,” says American film director, screen writer, and producer, Stanley Kubrick. Praised as one of the most influential directors in cinematic history, Kubrick stretched the bounds of cinema from a one dimensional plane of entertainment to a true exploration of existential being and emotional psyche.
Cerrudo furthers this exploration in his piece and breaks the fourth wall by having company members David Schultz and Rena Butler perform monologues by British philosopher Alan Watts. Watts is best known as an interpreter and popularizer of Eastern philosophy for a Western audience. Butler, a Chicago native, gives a wonderfully animated posh performance and Schultz’s southern Twain-like drawl evoked that “one-step ahead” type of performance. The costuming of these narrators by the incomparable Branimira Ivanova was luxe. The luminous material of vests and inner lining of Schultz’ jacket really played up their characters while adding that detail which brought the two together. The excerpt from Watts’ theories “It Starts Now (The Birth of Responsibility)” explains a deconstructed idea of time as being ever present and the power of the individual in its own reality. “Some people get a glimpse that we are no longer this poor little stranger and afraid in the world it never made. But that you are this universe. And you are creating it at every moment.” These very abstract concepts are interwoven into the visual performance with a cinematic score from various societal and psychological commentary films such as, “There Will Be Blood”, “Punch Drunk Love”, “The Triplets of Belleville”, “The Village” and “Pans Labyrinth”. The bleed between reality and performance illustrates drama transformed across platforms over time. The visual journey takes the abstract feeling and transforms it into a dreamscape of how we express our emotions through visual arts.
The piece incorporates a brilliant usage of a plain large curtain and suspends the audience’s imagination as it moves people cross stage, allows performers to dance among the clouds, entertain against the silver screen, until finally suspended in air as a future like billowed cloud. This prop gives the piece an interactive element and illustrates the limitless opportunity to performance art and its ever growing state. From romanticizing of old movies to Vaudeville comedy to the dramatic Spanish Casanovas in front of footlights, each sequence illustrates the relationship between audience and entertainment. Time and space breaks and shifts as the performance moves from upstage to downstage and beyond - a space odyssey of visual performance art.
Silent Ghost (2015) illustrates the beautiful agony of adolescence. An electric work that showcases a broader fuller movement of body and an exploration of physical extension. The lighting design by Michael Korsch and recreated by Burke Brown elevates the piece and highlights the broader use of space and movement occurring on stage. The group sequences capture the entire stage as a story between man and woman emerges. “This is the Place” by Dustin Hamman really sets the scene for an emotional youthful tone in its plucky raw beat, while it transitions into a moment separated from time. King Creosote and John Hopkins’ beautiful arrangement titled “First Watch” possesses environmental sound of daily life paired with a melodic piano. Cerrudo pairs this ambient noise of kitchens, people talking and stores, with a lovely duet including soft slow acro-esque movements that are truly breath taking. Between the intimately vulnerable duets and energetic angsty collective moments, the piece staggers sequences and layers motion in a way that shows a maturity.
Finally, the world premiere of Out of Your Mind (2018) takes the bones of Off Screen (2006) and transforms them into a visually stunning work. The full company piece incorporates pre-recording Alan Watts audio and remixed by Blond:ish, rather than the live booked monologues from the previous piece. This electronic rendition allows the company members to perform to the words and beat simultaneously making the power more impactful than the singled character separated from the rest as in Off Screen. The costuming design by Branimira Ivanova of long green tops paired with black bottoms unifies the company and grounds the piece in something earthy and organic. The broad use of space on stage showcases the dynamic and intricate movements between partners in particular sequences and breaks the fourth wall in more artistic way than the previous piece. The work is elevated and blossoms with each movement and flowed together between duets and company interwoven chorus work. The upbeat rendition of the dreamscape kept the audience much more engaged and felt holistic. The evening was a journey through time of one choreographer’s transformative works that challenge and progress his vision of dance. Hubbard Street Dance has a precision and professionalism that is clearly seen throughout their performances. The timeline of Cerrudo’s work reveal the key traits that transcends his work: detail and passion. Each piece brought performers closer towards the audience to bridge the gap. This sophistication and maturity shown through Cerrudo’s career allows those two elements to remain the binding thread and perfectly reflective of Hubbard’s mission to be an innovative enriching force.
To learn more about Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, please visit hubbardstreetdance.com
Read more about Alejandro Cerrudo’s career and timeline of his work here.
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!