by Lissa Smith
Suitcase? Check. Carry-on? Check. Phone? Wallet? Passport? Laptop?
Check, check, check, check. I sat on the edge of my bed, again reviewing the long list I painstakingly made. As I eagerly awaited my cab’s arrival, my nerves and excitement got the best of me. All of the hours spent rehearsing and refining our company repertory would now be put to the test of audiences in Europe.
My effort to pack lightly was an epic fail: a large suitcase, a shoulder tote, a backpack — oh, and a broken finger — would all accompany me abroad. But I was as ready as I could be to travel with Hubbard Street 2, for a two-week tour of Germany. I grabbed one last important item: my travel outlet adapter. Okay, now I was ready. I put on my coat, grabbed my luggage, and headed out with my dreams.
Fast-forward to our arrival in Frankfurt. Completely jetlagged, HS2 deplaned and followed signs reading Gepäckausgabe (baggage claim). We all grabbed breakfast — at 3am Chicago time — and waited for our presenter, who greeted us with a hearty und warm Willkommen! We stuffed the trunk of a van and hit the road.
The van went flying and, really, I mean flying. We quickly learned that German highways have no speed limits. Still, we struggled to keep our eyes open. I tried willing myself to stay awake, but it was a challenge I could not win. I was not the only one who succumbed: All of us fell asleep in the van, and got enough rest to go exploring after settling into our first hotel, the Nestor in Ludwigsburg.
One amazing benefit of performing with a dance company is the opportunity to visit so many new places and travel together. We have truly bonded through our shared experiences of rehearsing, dining, and living together in hotel rooms in so many cities. We are family now, in every sense of the word. We can read each other’s moods and have learned to travel and grow together as a group. The trust that we have for each other extends far beyond the studio and stage. Our tour through Germany, this past February and March, was HS2’s current members’ first international experience together, and my first tour abroad ever.
All of the cities we visited were adorable and quaint, with restaurants, bakeries and butcher shops galore. Every hotel offered a huge breakfast buffet, truly appreciated by all of the HS2 dancers. We particularly enjoyed the German coffee, and I was able to check off a few items on another list, of German foods beginning with the letter S. Streusel? Check. Schnitzel? Check. Strudel? Häkchen (check).
We performed in five venues and taught workshops throughout Ludwigsburg, plus Aschaffenburg, Remscheid, Rüsselsheim and Schweinfurt. Some of the theaters were more intimate; others were large and quite stunning. Performing in Germany was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Our performances were completely sold out and our audiences were true supporters of the arts. Our final bows were unforgettable moments that I will cherish forever: We’d get four curtain calls, standing ovations and flowers presented to us onstage, with stomping and clapping in unison as the soundtrack. The connection that we felt to our audiences was incredibly moving and heartwarming — such a rewarding feeling, knowing that our performances were valued and appreciated. The art of dance can truly bridge cultural differences and bring people together in ways both surprising and exhilarating.
The majority of our audience members stayed afterward and participated in our talkbacks, with our presenter translating both ways. We were asked some very intriguing questions; a couple of people expressed interest in the level of involvement that the dancers had in developing the choreography we performed. Audience members were also interested in learning whether we improvised during performances. Our answers to those questions were that, with a few of the works on our program (Penny Saunders’ Bonobo, Robyn Mineko Williams’ Recall, and Strides by Norbert De La Cruz III), the choreographers brought already-set material. Gregory Dolbashian, meanwhile, used material developed by us while creating By the skin of my teeth, using improvisation exercises and other tasks. So while the finished product might not include any live improvisation, it might have played a central role in a collaborative, creative process.
It’s hard to put into words what I brought home from Germany on March 2. The pieces that I performed there will forever be cross-referenced in my mind and heart with my memories of how our German audiences received them. As soon as I hear any of their scores, I feel the unique energy transmitted to us as we danced in those theaters. Every city we visited bestowed all of us with gifts that might not be tangible, but are nevertheless enduring and everlasting. A little bit of Germany comes with me to Hubbard Street’s studios every day now, and it brings me great joy and satisfaction to know that we left a little bit of HS2 across the Atlantic.
Hubbard Street 2 returns to Germany for performances in five additional cities in March 2014. Catch the company on May 4, at Symphony Center for a special “Get Up and Dance” performance for families, on May 6 at Chicago City Winery for Fear No ART’s “The Dinner Party,” and on May 11 at Ramsey Auditorium in Batavia, Illinois, as part of Fermilab’s 2012–13 Arts & Lecture Series. Visit hubbardstreetdance.com for a complete schedule of events and touring engagements.
BIO: Contributor Lissa Smith, age 21, was born and raised in Miami, Florida. She is currently dancing with Hubbard Street 2 of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. She attended The Boston Conservatory where she was both a Dance Conservatory Scholarship recipient and Jan Veen Dance Scholarship recipient.
Lissa has trained at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Juilliard School, Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet, The Martha Graham School, The Joffrey Ballet School and The Joffrey Midwest Workshop. Lissa has worked with world renowned choreographers such as: Thang Dao, Peter London, Alberto Del Saz, Maurya Kerr, Clébio Oliveira, Penny Saunders, Hofesh Shecter, Didy Veldman, Uri Sands, Gregory Dawson, Stephen Pier, John Magnus, Josée Garant, Viktor Plotnikov, Robyn Mineko Williams, Tony Fabre, and Judith Jamison. She has danced principal roles such as: “Yellow Girl” in “Diversion of Angels”, “Conversation of Lovers” within “Acts of Light” and “Frontier”, the solo choreographed by Martha Graham and staged by Yuriko and Susan Kikuchi along with Yasuko Tokunaga.
Lissa was the soloist lead dancer in both Thang Dao’s contemporary ballet, “Foil” and Greg Dawson’s contemporary ballet, “Eclipsing Venus”. She has also performed Jose Limon’s “Choreographic Offerings” staged by Jennifer Scanlon and Libby Nye. Lissa has performed the “Doll with Broken Head” solo from within “Mechanical Organ” choreographed by Alwin Nikolais, staged by Alberto Del Saz. Lissa received the “Modern Dance Award” and the “Dean’s Dance Award” upon her graduation from New World School of the Arts High School in June 2009 and won the “Arts For Life!” dance scholarship in 2009 presented by Former First Lady Columba Bush.
In 2012, Lissa was awarded the Martha Hill Young Professional Award.
Lissa’s posts on 4dancers are her own opinion and in no way reflect the thoughts or opinions of her employer, Hubbard Street 2.