Reflecting Chagall: Hubbard Street’s “One Thousand Pieces”
by Catherine L. Tully
The world premiere of Alejandro Cerrudo’s One Thousand Pieces was the first full-length work ever presented by Hubbard Street Dance Company, and it is indeed a reflection of Marc Chagall’s America Windows in the very best sense of the word. Despite using the artist’s famous blue panels of stained glass as his inspiration, the piece is conceptual, shaking off any literal interpretation in favor of a multifaceted offering of mood and emotion.
This performance kicks off Hubbard Street’s 35th Anniversary Season, and Cerrudo appropriately uses a large cast of dancers, including members of Hubbard Street 2. Rarely are all of them on stage at once–he seems to prefer more intimate numbers for choreography using two, three or four dancers at a time. Even so, there were moments where the entire group took to the stage and it was a powerful sight to see all of these talented dancers move in unison.
Costumes were kept simple but the set design changed throughout and Thomas Mika’s work here contributes to the atmosphere considerably. The “windows” are represented by a series of mirrored rectangles that are intermittently raised, lowered and even spun, adding impact by occasionally catching the light like a shard of glass in the sunshine, or in this case, moonlight. The subtle yet brilliant lighting design by Michael Korsch meshes perfectly with every dance sequence, complimenting the group work and adding intensity to duets and solos.
Throughout the piece there is no doubt that Cerrudo is the force behind the choreography; his signature touches are everywhere–from the tender partnering with its distinct flow to the dancers appearing and disappearing quickly and quietly. Even so, he succeeds in remaining fresh by delivering the unexpected, such as raising the curtain to reveal a stage floor drizzled with water, with three misty “waterfalls” serving as the scenery. Until this moment, only the music of Philip Glass accompanied the dancers, but then the sound of bodies kicking up spray and sliding through puddles is added to the mix as well.
Cerrudo plays with the idea of light and reflection through the choreography, crafting a vision complete with mirror-like movements and even some kaleidoscopic imagery. Bodies come together, transform and change shape in a variety of pretty patterns with a progression that is uninterrupted and exceedingly graceful. So often the movement and shapes created by Cerrudo seem as if they are the most natural thing the body could do–despite the obvious complexity. The match is a perfect one since the skilled dancers in this company have no trouble making it all look easy.
One’s reflection in a window is never quite an exact replica–the light is never as bright and the features blend more easily, revealing a doppelganger that is far more abstract than real. Although this shadowy image is never a true duplicate of the original–sometimes the filter of softness and mystery actually makes it more beautiful.
That is certainly the case here.
Behind the scenes at Hubbard Street: