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

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by Lawrence Bommer on March 13, 2015

in Theater-Chicago

LITERAL LEVITY

On display through this weekend at Millennium Park’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance, the Spring Series from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago consists of five offerings that blend the intimate with the frenetic. They’re both supercharged and subtle, sometimes at the same time. Three pieces are repertory favorites by Jiří Kylián and Alejandro Cerrudo, one a company premiere, the third a world premiere not to be confused with any dance ever delivered. Terpsichorean originality is never impossible, of course, considering the thousands of kinetic combinations of legs with arms and both with bodies in movement: No one could accuse these works of ignoring those possibilities.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Kylián’s sex-separated pieces contrast styles as well as genders. A peculiar tour d’hommes, “Sarabande” is one of six “black and white” dance designs that Kylián created between 1986 and 1991. His testosterone-fueled ordeal features six athletic and attractive male dancers, their statuesque torsos on full display, erupting in grunts and gyrations, alternating amplified yowls of defiance with grueling writhing. Very little music (just a bit of Bach) mellows the panic induced in them by the empty 18th century ball gowns that dangle above them: Only when these paniers lift up do they gain some comparative composure.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Eight women comprise Kylián’s seemingly calmer, 15-minute “Falling Angels,” also introduced last year to the Hubbard repertory. Creating a kind of moving frieze with semaphore gestures that vaguely suggest antiquity, “Falling Angels” conveys unstoppable energy in pursuit of unquenchable desires. It’s fueled by the intricate and hypnotic drumming of Third Coast Percussion and composer Steve Reich’s perfectly punctuated driving beat. It’s amazing how these four young guys manage to keep a count of Reich’s unmelodic rhythms in order to vary the intensity and up the ante.

Third Coast Percussion performing DRUMMING PART I by Steve Reich for Hubbard Street’s performances of Falling Angels by Jiří Kylián. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Moving from ensemble feats to individual delights, Cerrudo’s “Cloudless” employs Ana Lopez and Jacqueline Burnett as harmonious female floaters in this loosely intimate, sweetly fluid set of artful aerobics. Totally in tandem, the women could well be amorous partners or teacher and student as well as athletic lovers. But their frenzied movement suggests many issues yet to be resolved or lessons to be learned.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

A Hubbard Street premiere performed to Owen Belton’s electronic score, Crystal Pite’s solo “A Picture of You Falling” puts Jason Hortin in an excruciating work-out, an excerpt from the choreographer’s feature-length “You Show.” An offstage, very British narrator (imagine Judy Dench in a sour mood) describes the cascading action and dourly proclaims the conventionally garbed dancer’s imminent collapse as his heart hits the floor. Accordingly, bravura-packed Hortin, suddenly squashed by heavy gravity, squirms under an invisible battering, his body quivering like a butterfly on a pin. We can only guess retroactively at the mental anguish behind so much physical torture, not all of it necessarily self-induced.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Finally, the world premiere of Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s “I am Mister B” is, as the title suggests, a dazzling homage to George Balanchine, specifically the variations he could play on dancers as composers do on themes. Here the music is Tchaikovsky’s Third Suite for orchestra, a driving, imperious work that usually commands fuller movement than these constricted, almost spastic movements–or the rapid patter from a stammering Balanchine spokesman embroiled in the pell-mell activities.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Dressed in dark blue costumes and framed by a constantly arching and falling succession of cerulean stage curtains (designed by Luis Crespo), this ferocious new work jerkily and quirkily depicts–as I saw it–the initial improvised steps dancers take to an orchestral work that’s never been reduced or enlarged to ballet. As invisible forces lift the curtains, the six women and six men rush about to rise above or sink into Tchaikovsky’s magnificent music. It’s Balanchine’s entire career on fast forward and rapid reverse.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

photos © Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance ChicagoSpring Series
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E. Randolph Drive
scheduled to end on March 15, 2015
for tickets, call 312-850-9744
or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com

for more info on Chicago Theater,
visit www.TheatreinChicago.com

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