by Catherine L. Tully
After a strong spring program, expectations ran high for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Summer Series at the Harris Theater. The line-up features three pieces—an unusual collection of choreography that takes the audience on a journey that they are certain to remember for a long time to come.
Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, “Malditos” was originally a collaborative effort between Hubbard Street and Nederlands Dans Theater. Set to music from the film, The Beat My Heart Skipped (composed by Alexandre Desplat), one of the most striking features of this piece is the lighting design by Tom Visser. At times it barely illuminates the dancers—the visual equivalent of a whisper, making the viewer almost lean forward in their seat to watch the movement. Indeed, nothing about Cerrudo’s choreography shouts; it’s not showy even when it’s infused with energy. Instead it melts and dissolves through space, much like the dancers that come and go seemingly out of nowhere from the back of the stage.
Featured next is William Forsythe’s “Quintett” – and Hubbard Street has the honor of being the first American company to perform this work, first created in 1993. Set to U.K. composer Gavin Bryars’ composition “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet”, it opens with five dancers, a stark white set–and a palpable feeling of discomfort.
In an unapologetic fashion, the audience is quickly pulled into this private, intimate setting. Dancers offer brief moments of tenderness, surrounded by explosive, sometimes unsettling sequences of movement. “Quintett” isn’t a passive piece where the audience gazes upon the dancers as they entertain. In fact, giving in to the uncomfortable feelings generated by the droning loop of the soundtrack and the unexpected movement patterns is almost a requirement if any sense of connection is to be found within the piece. This acceptance doesn’t come easily, but with it “Quintett” begins to transform, rewarding the viewer for the struggle.
“THREE TO MAX” is the final piece, originally created for Hubbard Street as a collage of Ohad Naharin’s works over the last decade. From the sensual hip circles seven women perform from a seated position on the floor to the “snapshot” movements that pulse out from a counted vocal rhythm, this is a piece that truly lets the company shine. Jeans, t-shirts and tank tops outfit the dancers in simplicity as they perform movements that range from clock-like ticking of the limbs (complete with vocals) to arabesques with arms that float skyward like a long swath of ribbon suspended in the air.
Although the collection of his works here are each quite different they are blended together well, and selecting “THREE TO MAX” as the final piece is a fitting end to a wonderfully executed program. Chicago should be proud—there’s nothing quite like Hubbard Street—and this is a program to prove it.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is at the Harris Theater through June 3rd, which will also be Robyn Mineko Williams’ final performance after 12 years with the company.