4 out of 4 stars
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago stuns with its repertoire Summer Series program that features work by acclaimed choreographers Brian Brooks, Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo and Crystal Pite. The program was presented at Harris Theater in Millennium Park for a limited engagement, June 6th – 9th, 2019. “This program celebrates the outstanding work by some of the leading choreographers working today,” said Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton. “Since their debut performances, we have heard repeatedly that audiences would love to see these works more often. This is a ‘greatest hits’ program that showcases the versatile talents of our dancers, who truly have the ability to perform the most challenging and exciting choreography out there.”
The evening opened with Brian Brooks piece The Loss of Place with music by Jerome Begin. The choreography layered upon itself and created a visually complex bite for the eye. Physical movement forward and backward through sequences that almost looks mechanical. I deeply enjoyed this satisfying piece and the dancer pairings were really well cast throughout the work from matching similar builds to contrasting pairs – all seemed to fit perfectly together. This highlights the ability and caliber of the company to blend dance pairs together that enhance everyone’s performance. It’s a reassurance in the talent and strength of the company to be so flexible and mold-able. The lighting sequences designed by Nicole Pearce were subtle and suck you in. This type of control in environment without the audience even realizing the change is occurring is always wonderful. The costuming was also lovely, simple, yet complimentary to the whole. Brooks said that he hoped audiences would feel as though they are “watching a flock of birds—something of one mind, of one focus, with a cohesiveness balancing order and chaos.” Brooks is Choreographer in Residence at the Harris Theater. The piece received its world premiere in 2016 at the Harris Theater.
The two works in the middle of the night were both pieces by Crystal Pite, a choreographer whose work is cerebral and always a favorite. Pite’s insightful pieces are those you never get tired of and find new quirks each time, particularly if they are performed by different dancers. A Picture of You Falling is best described as a car crash relationship in its most basic terms, yet holds so much more depth than a brief statement can muster. This time around in the context of the night overall I found this piece to much more dramatic than past performances when it is surrounded by more lighthearted pieces to be a more highlight on a journey from humoresque physical distortion to sadness than this past performance gripping with drama. Craig D. Black Jr. evokes this gravity and sensitivity through his intentional movement. His performance flows, but you feel the connection between every sequence acutely. Ana Lopez is wonderful and entrancing as the two duet throughout the piece to the voice over by Kate Strong. At the time of its debut, Pite said that she was exploring “the ways in which the body can convey profound meaning through the simplest of gestures, and how distortion, iteration and analysis of familiar human action provide opportunities to recognize and re-frame ourselves in one another.” Peter Chu stages this piece and every time I watch the lighting design I fall move in love each time.
Pite’s introspective duet performed by Michael Gross and Andrew Murdock, The Other You is an internal conflict on fire. Performed to Beethoven’s “Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor” and sound design by Owen Belton with distant city soundscapes, audiences are forced to examine an acute study of the inner-self and inner-conflict. Gross and Murdock mirror each other constantly throughout the piece and follow a sequenced flow that demands acute attention and subtle change throughout. Pite is a master of theatrical performance with depth and psyche, but it is Gross and Murdock that capture the intent and convey is with such power and ease posing almost as dual aggressors by the end with the Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde characteristics falling wayside. Linda Chow’s costume design for long jackets and close shaved heads adds to the staged intensity, while Robert Sondergaard’s lighting paces the piece through a passage of time.
Hubbard Street ended the evening with Out of Your Mind, an additionally insightful piece by HSDC Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. The intimate downstage work bends time with a spell binding energetically philosophical work. The emergences of a mechanical sequencing again that compliments the night’s first piece. Cerrudo’s work is reactionary and ends with synchronization. Spell binding and comforting against an amazing auditory experience. Three dancers I could not keep my eyes off of were Rena Butler, Alicia Delgadillo and Connie Shiau. Butler’s commanding presence entices and evokes this attention from the audience. Delgaillo’s flow sequence is impeccably fluid. Shaiu is a quiet force that blends each emotive movement into the next – her energy radiates. Cerrudo’s 16th work for Hubbard Street premiered in March 2018 at the Auditorium Theatre. Intricate group formations that ripple and wind about are set to a text by philosopher, Alan Watts. The company hones a connection to create a seamless movement that is highly impressive set against such an interesting space. “You are the universe and you are creating it at every moment,” says Alan Watts.
It was a joy to be returned to so many memorable works in one night. These works really highlight the vast talent this company possesses, as well as a strength and endurance these dancers perform together so smoothly. It’s very impressive and always an honor to witness their artistry. Hubbard Street Dance just announced its 2019/2020 season featuring a world premiere by Kyle Abraham, a world premiere by Robyn Mineko Williams, audience favorite Decadance/Chicago by Ohad Naharin, and innovative works from Hubbard Street’s repertoire by Crystal Pite, Rena Butler, and Peter Chu. Please visit hubbardstreetdance.com for more information about the upcoming season and tickets.
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!