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Susan Weinrebe
Performance Reviews
Harris Theatre for Music and Dance

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

by Susan Weinrebe
October 2, 2005
Harris Theatre for Music and Dance
Millennium Park
205 E. Randolph Drive
Chicago, IL 60601

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
1147 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60607-2905

Artistic Director: Jim Vincent
Executive Director: Gail Kalver
Founder: Lou Conte

Artistic Associate: Lucas Crandall
Rehearsal Director: Monica Trogani
Audio Engineer: Kilroy G. Kundalini
Lighting Supervisor: Cailen Waddell
Production Electrician: Josh Selander
Company Manager: Anne Grove
Stage Manager: Aprill C. Clements
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rebecca M. Shouse
Company Teachers: Claire Bataille, Julie Nakagawa Böttcher, Patrick Simoniello

Support from:
National Endowment for the Arts, Illinois Arts Council, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Millennium Park
205 E. Randolph Drive
Chicago, Illinois 60601

Susan Weinrebe
October 2, 2005

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is as much a Chicago institution as are architectural landmarks in the city. Founded nearly thirty years ago, the company is known for its contemporary style and for premiering work in response to the demands of its following.

The performance I attended included: a first Chicago performance, a world premiere, and reprises of two spring 2005 premieres, all verification that what is fresh and in the vanguard of the dance world is Hubbard Street's forte.

Chicago Premiere
Choreography: Jim Vincent
Costume Design: Jim Vincent, Rebecca M. Shouse
Lighting Design: Scott Kepley, Jim Vincent
Sound Design: Kilroy G. Kundalini
Music: Antonio Vivaldi, David Lang, Jimi Hendrix
Underwritten by Bill Wood Prince
Willing: Jamy Meek, Alejandro Cerrudo Erin Derstine
Brat: Cheryl Mann, Julia Wollrab, Meredith Dincolo, Hope Muir, Taryn Kaschock, Alejandro
Cerrudo, Patrick Simoniello, Yarden Ronen, Jamy Meek, Isaac Spencer
Traffic: Sarah Cullen Fuller, Jamy Meek, The Ensemble

Power symbols of money, a leather chair, and a beautiful woman were humorous notes as they appeared projected against the black backdrop. A ship's bell and short wave radio faded in and out of frequency as silence, Asian percussion, Vivaldi, and Jimi Hendrix all took turns in a grab bag of disparate musical punctuation.

Men in suits louched about. One struggled with his twin image like a bird pecking at itself in a mirror. Corporate and social driving forces were given concrete form, as we were shown the siren call of our desires and their power over us.

As female dancers in camp shirts and skirts, reminiscent of the Soviet youth movement, competed and struggled amongst themselves, notes of metal striking against metal introduced a male dancer into their ominous presence. The women surrounded him and their wiles lured, teased, and threatened. I was reminded of James Thurber and his battle between the sexes with strong females and the men who are at their mercy in all ways.

Camel walk movement taken from Middle Eastern dance introduced another female dancer beginning a new interlude. Again the approach-avoidance of relationships built as a crescendo mounted to an excruciating pitch. There was an expectation of violence, as the dancers roiled about like a ship's hawser, twisting to retain control of a mighty object.

Spoken words, including advertising platitudes, "Strong enough for a man, gentle enough for a woman," that hammered home the theme of getting along and getting together, brought the camouflage attired ensemble to the stage en masse. We had witnessed struggle in various forms. As if to emphasize a hope for eventual conciliation, Uniformity concluded with a solitary couple embracing at center stage.

Choreography: Susan Marshall
Lighting Design: Mitchell Bogard
Music: Arvo Pärt, Cantus in memory of Benjamin Britten
Exclusive Underwriters: Karen and Peter Lennon
Dancers: Cheryl Mann and Tobin Del Cuore

Following the strife of the previous work, Kiss was a rapturous love note. Suspended in unobtrusive seat harnesses, and each attached to a stout rope, a pair of dancers performed an airborne pas de deux. Removed from the gravity of their weight, their movements were a glissando of dreamy embraces and graceful airs above the ground. The respectively larger and more diminutive sizes of the partners, Tobin Del Cuore and Cheryl Mann, increased the sense of vulnerability and protectiveness though not always as expected.

Five years ago, the Joffrey staged a piece, White Widow, using a trapeze. In that composition, the dancer, Emily Patterson, let her hair and white gown stream long and flowing as if trailing all the sorrow in her being.

I thought then and now with Kiss that there is something inherently moving in a performance that ungrounds dancers. To see dancers both constrained by the apparatus upon which they suspend themselves, yet freed to perform, apparently without effort or weight, forces us to suspend something as well. That is, notions of how we perceive dance performance.

Second Memory
World Premiere
Choreography: Alex Ketley
Costume Design: Rita DiLorenzo
Lighting Design: Todd L. Clark
Music: Leslie Stuck
Supported by a 2004 Choo-San Goh Award for Choreography from the Choo-San Goh & Robert Magee Foundation.
Dancers: Robyn Mienko Williams, Charlaine Katsuyoshi, Hope Muir, Sarah Cullen Fuller, Yarden Ronen, Pablo Piantino, Jamy Meek and Isaac Spencer.

Thankfully, the program had been rearranged so that Second Memory followed Kiss, which acted as a buffer between Second Memory and Uniformity. Cacophonous sounds, like train brakes grinding late at night, and a bazaar of disconnected instruments and techno music introduced movement. The dancers performed heroically and stoically, given the brittle sounds. Repeatedly, they were carried in a fetal position, a motif which underscored the human need for tenderness amidst inhospitable forces, perhaps including one's past.

Choreography: Nacho Duato
Music: Hassan Hakmoun, Adam Rudolph, Juan Arteche, Xavier Paxadiño, Abou-Khalil, Velez, Kusur and Sarkissian
Costume Design: Devota & Lomba
Lighting Design: Nicholas Fischtel
Set Design: Nacho Duato
Exclusive Underwriters: Karen and Peter Lennon
Organization: Mediart Producciones SL (Spain)
Dancers: Taryn Kaschock, Shannon Alvis, Robyn Mineko Williams, Meredith Dincolo, Cheryl Mann, Charlaine Katsuyoshi, Hope Muir, Sarah Cullen Fuller, Patrick Simoniello, Jamy Meek, John Ross, Sebastian Gehrke, Pablo Piantino, Alejandro Cerrudo, Martin Lindinger and Larry Trice.

Primal and magical, Gnawa was the perfect finale. Clearly enjoying the choreography as much as the audience, the dancers put an exclamation point on this piece which had been created just for them.

Beginning with the elemental sounds of dripping water, a plucked string sounded. At first, the movement was almost a pantomime of slow motion, receding backwards on the stage. Women in black flowing gowns, holding their arms like temple goddesses being worshipped, chanting, men bare to the waist, and a reappearing couple in gray bodysuits, brought the synergy of Afro-Med movement and compelling rhythms back again and again. Train-like linking and breaking the line of dancers, the ensemble pressed onward, until the couple returned like exotic birds in a mating ritual during a pastoral interlude. Candles, brought as though by acolytes to illuminate their worship, as well as a series of virtuoso solos, almost riffs on a theme, all emphasized the theatrical aspect of this many-flavored tribal delight.

Gnawa thrummed with the vitality of Duato's choreography. It seemed that the dancers did not want this compelling composition to end as it inexorably moved to a climax that could not be denied. When the curtain came down, the audience clearly wanted more of what Hubbard Street Dance Chicago had given them that evening.

Gnawa by the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Photo courtesy of Todd Rosenberg

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