Hubbard Street Dance Chicago delivered a powerful evening of dance, on the opening night of its Season 39 Springs Series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.
The evening began with Lucas Crandall’s Imprint, a stark and physically compelling piece featuring the full company: Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Alice Klock, Emilie Leriche, Adrienne Lipson, Ana Lopez, and Jessica Tong as well as Jesse Bechard, Michael Gross, Elliot Hammans, Jason Hortin, Florian Lochner, David Schultz, and Kevin J. Shannon.
The amazing choreography was inspired in part by stampedes, according to Crandall. The dance was accompanied by live, improvised percussion from Hubbard Street Dancer David Schultz, whose pounding beat gave a rhythm to the chaotic scenes as dancers convulsed in groups, then separated, ran, fell, paused and then stepped over the fallen. The first half of the work evoked an almost futuristic and robotic feel, while the second half was more simple and bare, primitive and untamed, also exposing how crowds build, move and panic.
Choreographed by Nacho Duato, the second piece, Violoncello, from his evening length work, Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness, is a two-act tribute to composer Johann Sebastian Bach, performed to Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G major. Captivatingly executed by Ana Lopez and Florian Lochner, Violoncello was a vision of exquisite movement showing the interplay – push and pull - between instrument and composer.
Earthy, muted yet evoking the passion of struggle, the next dance Jardí Tancat (Catalonian for “Closed Garden), also created by Duato, is based on a collection of ancient Spanish folk songs recorded by vocalist María del Mar Bonet. Hauntingly, three couples: Jacqueline Burnett, Michael Gross, Alicia Delgadillo, Kevin J. Shannon, Jessica Tong, and Jesse Bechard, show the movements of sowing, planting, and threshing, of the barren Catalonian land. Laced throughout the very moving piece is a spirit of perseverance and hope despite the hardships.
Completing the evening’s lineup was Solo Echo by Crystal Pite. It is stunning from its opening moments as glimmering lights filter down on a solo figure who is eventually joined by other dancers in very familial and interconnected movements. Dancers for Solo Echo included: Jesse Bechard, Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Michael Gross, Jason Hortin, Emilie Leriche, and Florian Lochner.
It “presents a man reckoning with himself at the end of his life,” explains Pite. “The character is echoed — copied, reiterated, by seven different dancers. He is portrayed through both male and female bodies, and through various physiques and strengths. Each performer is a distinct and nuanced version of the character, and the connections between them evoke a man coming to terms with himself.”
Hubbard Street Dance’s Season 39 is off to a very commanding start with an impressive body of work in its Spring Series. Part of a three-part program, additional series performances include: DANC(E)VOLVE: New Works Festival May 11–14, 2017 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and Summer Series, June 8–11, 2017 at the Harris Theater.
Season 39 three-series subscriptions are available online at hubbardstreetdance.com/subscribe.
In the first piece titled, "N.N.N.N.", in the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Fall Series at Harris Theatre, two men and two women dance in silence except for the occasional sounds of their breath and grunts of exertion, which are both a relief to hear and even comical in places. Forsythe seems to have derived an entirely new alphabet of modern dance for this piece! Although the simple movements, a hand placed on one shoulder, a clap, or a skip, seem somewhat easy at first they grow in speed and complexity until the audience is aware that this is not a dance about male/female pairing, it is a dance about egalitarian freedom from those stereotypes and stereotypical romances in dance. The silence throughout the piece is both energizing and unnerving at points.
The second piece of the evening, "Quintett" set to a single haunting piece of music “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me”, an arrangement by English composer Gavin Bryars of a composition by an unknown composer that has a homeless man singing a brief stanza over and over and over again on a 25-minute loop, its volume increasing gradually. This is more in line with what dance lovers expect to see. This piece speaks clearly about love and loss in Forsythe's life, that of his late wife, and is replete with grace, longing and loneliness of the loss. “Quintett” is beautifully danced by its lead Ana Lopez, clad in a flowing orange colored silk shirt dress, whose long-limbed and strongly expressive dance style takes on a supernatural feeling that the ghosts of those we have loved and lost continue to dance with strength through our minds over and over into eternity.
The third piece, "One Flat Thing" performed to an almost angry sounding, slightly scary industrial score is performed by fourteen dancers on top of an uncountable number of menacing looking metal tables. Sometimes they look like tables in a morgue, sometimes like a grouping of desks in a correctional school. Either way they are both riveting and terrifying in its speed and accuracy. In fact, many of the dancers have suffered "bone bruising injuries" during the practice of this piece as their shins and other body parts accidentally collide at full force with the cold unforgiving metal edges of all these "flat things". I enjoyed it because the frenzy of maneuvers by all fourteen dancers at once seemed to rage against every type of obstacle that life throws at you, especially the ones that seem designed by corporations or schools that are purposely designed to keep you in line, sitting in your proper seat, or thrown in your way each day. Each year no matter how many you climb, more "flat things/obstacles" are pushed your way in life.
With the exception of the gloriously sad and romantic "Quintett" this was an evening of dance full of excitement and even the fear of collision, great for lovers of dance and not for the faint of heart.