Dance Review: HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO (Ahmanson Theatre)

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by William Keiser on October 7, 2023

in Dance,Theater-Chicago,Theater-Los Angeles,Tours

The Chicago veteran contemporary dance company, one of America’s finest, doesn’t disappoint in a dancey triple bill at the Ahmanson in Los Angeles.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Triple Bill last Friday consisted of a variety of styles. The first piece, Aszure Barton’s Busk (2009) is a genre-bending contemporary piece, the second, Coltrane’s Favorite Things (2010) by Lar Lubovitch, is jazzy and modern-dance inflected, and the third, Dear Frankie (2023), a west coast premiere by Rennie Harris, features Chicago-style House music and movement.

Elliot Hammons in BUSK (Todd Rosenberg)
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in BUSK by Aszure Barton (Michelle Reid)

Aszure Barton’s Busk, given pride of place at the beginning, is the clear star of the show. It begins with a single figure, soloist Elliot Hammans, who wears a black hoodie and parachute pants and holds out his bowler to the audience, a clear nod to the titular act of “busking.” He performs an acrobatic and performative, and simultaneously avant-garde and contemporary solo, at one point sliding into a straddle to thundering applause. The corps follows him onto stage, hoodies up, black pants billowing, sliding in black socks as the music transitions to a Swedish choral concert. White illuminated bags of mist hover in the air. The corps runs in place, jumps jerkily, slides, and bends in a gooey and macabre style marked by the widest second positions imaginable. In their hoods, the dancers, sometimes posing on a set of stairs placed onstage, look like reapers, burghers of Calais, or street people. The last of these is poignantly evoked by their lying together on the floor and head-nodding in precise patterns.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in BUSK by Aszure Barton
(Danica Paulos; courtesy of Jacob's Pillow)

The resulting effect is one of contemporary mastery and total transportation of the audience. Particularly memorable is a solo by Shota Myoshi, whose sinuous body and astronomical talent are perfectly showcased by the mixture of tap, hip hop, and contemporary he does in a strobe spotlight (sharp lighting by James Clotfelter). That said, the entire corps seems at home in Barton’s challenging, angular choreography (Barton has been named HSDC’s Resident Artist for the next three seasons).

Hubbard Street Dancer Aaron Choate in Rennie Harris' DEAR FRANKIE (Michelle Reid)

Though the other two pieces are fun, the company doesn’t sparkle in Lubovich’s modern piece, (I might prefer a ballet company’s attempt) and Harris’s House opus Dear Frankie, though virtuosic, innovates little formally beyond a standard dance recital. Barton’s piece, on the other hand, with Michelle Jank‘s clever hybrid costumes, uses every choreographic element at its disposal to achieve an effect larger than the sum of its parts. The dancers consummate the combination of choreography and embodiment. Busk feels at once nostalgic, liturgical, and contemporary, and the clothes are a major part of the piece’s appeal, appearing like different garments in every section. I recommend seeing this program, if even for the Barton piece and the company’s talent alone.

Hubbard Street dancer Shota Myoshi (Michelle Reid, styling by Imani Sade)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center
played September 29-October 1 at The Ahmanson Theatre

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

JM October 14, 2023 at 1:57 pm

I agree! The show was excellent and the entire ensemble was fantastic. All of the soloists, especially Shota Myoshi and Elliot Hammans were breathtaking to watch.


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