Chicago Dance Review: HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO SPRING SERIES (Harris Theater)

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by Lawrence Bommer on March 15, 2013

in Theater-Chicago

THE NEXT STEP(S)

It’s an impressive lineup for this respected Chicago company’s annual “Spring Series”—not just the always impressive Hubbard Street Dance Chicago but, here and elsewhere, the San Francisco-based Alonzo King LINES Ballet. That means that one dance features a sprawling expanse of 28 dancers on the Harris Theater stage, a crowd-control extravaganza to be repeated in Madison, Wisconsin (March 20) and L.A.’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion (June 21-23).

Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of HUBBARD STREET/ALONZO KING Spring Series

This progressive collaboration begins with the LINES Ballet’s opening offering, Rasa, an exotic set of nine dances by founder King to a tabla-music score by Zakir Hussain and Kala Ramnath. Mysterious with ritualistic movement that resembles a harvest celebration from the early 18th century, as well as steps that could have come from the frieze of a Hindu temple, this complex creation is enacted before a honeycomb backdrop. Filled with fleshy, erotic comingling that references Kama Sutra imagery, it teems with mating and mimicry that’s hypnotic and contagious. The leg extensions, in particular, seem timeless as well as technical and give it the grace of a hidden ceremony.

Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of HUBBARD STREET/ALONZO KING Spring Series

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago contributes the ever-popular Little mortal jump, a dimly-lit and equally probing work for ten dancers to an eclectic score from various artists. Featuring rotating black cubes to which the dancers can stick Velcro-like or a cryptic door through which the men are briefly glimpsed, this playful piece is rich with enigmatic moments of unexplained convergences—between the dancers and between styles as diverse as Klesmer-style vaudeville and rap funk. A tribute to the power of friction to create new combinations, Alejandro Cerrudo’s choreography is taut with rapid-fire twists and frantic break-out group explosions.

Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of HUBBARD STREET/ALONZO KING Spring Series

Finally, and least successfully, the troupes join their considerable forces in the recently debuted, hit-and-miss Azimuth, King’s overlong and rather cluttered set of nine dances to original music by Ben Juodvalkis. Teeming with writhing, the pieces include such bizarre and overly abstract moments as a woman walking on men’s backs (for reasons the movements can’t divulge) and a sudden running in circles. The smaller scenes, no question, nicely blend immediacy and intimacy.

Lawrence Bommer's Stage and Cinema Chicago review of HUBBARD STREET/ALONZO KING Spring Series

But the larger ones… It would be kind to call these Hieronymus Bosch-like group scenes deliberately imprecise, but they never feel calculated. Admittedly, it’s hard to move 56 feet and as many arms in tandem. Yet anything less can’t pass for or look like a concept—it just seems ragged, sloppy and lethally loose—not natural but clumsily improvised and utterly arbitrary. It’s hard to find–and finally not worth the looking—design in a congregation of do-it-yourself dancers in quest of choreography. The thrill of seeing 28 barely clothed bodies in close movement wears thin when it all looks underrehearsed.

Well, what’s a “Spring Series” without a stumble? Two out of three is no terrible percentage.

photos by Margo Moritz

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Spring Series
Harris Theater at Millenium Park
scheduled to end on March 17, 2013
for tickets visit http://www.hubbardstreetdance.com

for info on this and other Chicago Theater, visit http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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