by Catherine L. Tully
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s spring program at the Harris Theater was a triumph in three parts—beginning with the compellingly graceful work “Following the Subtle Current Upstream” by Alonzo King. A perfect showcase to display the technical expertise of the company, the choreography here is filled with dynamic patterns that explore and transform, and it is set to a score of sounds that include bells, drum beats and vocals.
Offering a completely different landscape, Israeli choreographer Sharon Eyal’s “Too Beaucoup” was the final program piece. The large ensemble of dancers coupled with the intense lighting and precise, symmetrical choreography gives the feeling of staring at a 3-D painting—where you wait for the hidden picture to pop out if you look at it just right. With its often heavy, hypnotic thumping beat and cast of identically-clad robotic characters it’s on the lengthy side, but the overall sensory experience is electrifying.
Sandwiched between these two audience favorites was “Little mortal jump”—a world premiere by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo—and it did not disappoint. Relationships between the featured dancers started out playful; indeed almost comical, reminiscent of boys and girls trying to flirt for the first time, pulling pigtails and teasing one another at recess. But despite the lighthearted introduction to his work here, Cerrudo is not content to showcase the relationships veiled in a shallow, childish simplicity. Instead the partnering throughout is intricate and rich, displaying a maturity that is at the same time surprising and satisfying.
Cerrudo succeeds in establishing a rapport with the audience in a friendly, approachable way and only then begins to peel away the layers of relationships by emphasizing certain moments vividly. “Little mortal jump” continues to evolve until suddenly you are in the middle of something powerful—not playful. Laying this type of groundwork leaves the audience feeling emotionally invested rather than embarrassed at the glimpses of intimacy that are to come. One time it’s a momentary (but vivid) facial expression that connects. Another comes in the form of an intense, almost desperate slow-motion sequence during a duet.
A stark backdrop of enormous black cubes added a surprising energy to the work as they rolled around on silent casters, sectioning off different parts of the stage and adding emphasis throughout the piece. Sometimes the cubes became a part of the dance itself, while other times they functioned more like parenthesis around a phrase as bodies moved within their confines. The simple set pieces added a sophistication that was palpable, and they provided the perfect climax for the ending as they spun wildly with dancers disappearing behind them—a final surprise.
In this, his 10th piece for the company, Cerrudo has succeeded in taking elements from his previous works and fusing them together into a fully-formed vision that connects strongly with the audience. “Little mortal jump” has a definite cinematic quality to it which serves the piece well, and it is abundantly clear that Cerrudo understands both his audience and how to draw the best work from the dancers in this talented company.
It will be interesting to see where his choreography goes from here.