3.5 stars out of 4
Chicago’s iconic Hubbard Street Dance Company join forces with Cuba’s Malpaso Dance Company this weekend with a program of four works, including two world premieres. Despite their two choreographers living thirteen hundred miles apart, the works’ themes and style are remarkably similar, giving the seamless feel of a four-part work by a single source. Each exquisitely crafted chapter explores an aspect of human relationship, from one’s own self-worth to romance to social mores.
Chicago-based Robyn Mineko Williams’ Cloudline is the most memorable of the four, reveling in the wonder and playfulness of new love. A giant piece of gray fabric, resembling a bed sheet, pillows and falls around the lovers, creating a resonant image of the intimate world of two inside the bed. Silent, still observers frame the action, reminding us what it’s like to be on the outside of the world of couple-dom, looking in. Malpaso’s artistic director Osnel Delgado’ work Oscaso, a duet between himself and Hubbard Street dancer Alicia Delgadillo, is like sitting in on a couple’s therapy session. Their gorgeous partnering belies both their intimacy and their troubles; their standing shoulder-to-shoulder motif hints at the particular patterns a couple can trap themselves in and struggle to undo.
The evening’s premieres, Williams’ Elemental and Delgado’s The Windless Hold, involved the talents of their ensembles more broadly, while still favoring the duet as the primary mode of expression. I began thinking about why the duet is so strongly favored, not only tonight, but in contemporary dance at large—why does the duet fascinate us so? I suppose because like a love song, its possibilities are endless—it’s not in the what of the message—relationships are complicated-- but in the how of two capable bodies intertwining and unfolding. Since most of the duets in our culture feature, and thus normalize, heterosexual pairs, Elemental’s duets of two women and two men are particularly refreshing. A particular moment where one of the dancers sings an acapalla song asking his beloved to forgive him, while the two women dance, is particularly poignant.
There were only brief moments of synchronized, ensemble-based rhythm in this show, and it was so fabulous that I wanted more of it—I would love to see what would happen if these two fierce companies zoomed out from the couple together.
Hubbard Street and Malpaso perform March 2 and 3, 2019 at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E. Congress Pkwy). Call the box office at 312-341-2310 or visit www.auditoriumtheatre.org for more information.
Susanna is a Teaching Artist with Chicago's finest dance education companies, exposing hundreds of students to the art of dance each year. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Dance from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN, where she was awarded the David Wick Prize for Choreography. Susanna enjoys performing, keeping up with the city's performance scenes, and traveling.