by Catherine L. Tully
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Season 37 Summer Series takes place at the Harris Theater, featuring three works from resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. This is only the second time the company has presented a program that focuses on a single artist, and taking in an entire evening of this gifted choreographer’s work is truly a luxury to experience.
White feathers cascade slowly to the stage floor in preparation for the beginning program piece, Extremely Close. One of Cerrudo’s earliest works for the company, it’s perfectly bookended with his more recent Little mortal jump, showing the evolution of his choreography from one piece to the other. Both make ample use of large sliding panels, which add intrigue and energy throughout. The cinematic quality that is so often a hallmark of Cerrudo’s work is present here, along with the poignant moments he creates using unusual imagery. Hubbard Street dancers were meant for this choreography and they execute it confidently with both vigor and ease.
The second item on the program is Cerrudo’s world premiere, Still in Motion, which offers a marked departure from his previous style. Even so, the highly edited and pared-down choreography still displays signature traits: a spectacular circular fluidity, moving from silence to sound, quick vignettes.
The set consists of a light-colored tarp that stretches long across the floor and up onto the back wall–with a strip of neon blue marking the top. Visually it resembles a strange sort of wave, something almost confirmed by two women stretching out on the ground undulating gently–as if floating under water. The set and lighting design by Michael Korsch offer a quiet, subtle compliment to the choreographer’s work.
While many of Cerrudo’s previous pieces display an urgency that tends to hold or build throughout, Still in Motion feels more relaxed, more refined. Movements here are simple, even at times, almost pedestrian. Three male dancers breathing deeply in unison. An exaggerated walk. Postures that are held. Slight gestures.
Rather than a watered-down version of his own work, however, Still in Motion instead has a clarity and streamlined sophistication previously unseen in Cerrudo’s choreography. It moves in a new direction without totally reinventing his style or abandoning the beauty of it. And the Hubbard Street dancers, chameleons to the core, adapt effortlessly to whatever they are asked to do.
Closing the program is Little mortal jump. This was Cerrudo’s tenth creation for the company, and it highlights the athletic skills of the dancers as well as the choreographer’s ability to amuse, entertain and evoke emotion. A lighthearted, fun approach at the beginning of the piece gives way to a swirling, thrilling duet–a riveting end to a triumphant program.
Hubbard Street’s Summer Series runs through June 14th at the Harris Theater. Tickets are still available.