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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.

 

Published in Dance in Review

This summer the 9th annual Chicago Dancing Festival returns with four days of free dance performances throughout the city. On Wednesday evening, the MCA hosted a production entitled Modern Women in the Edlis Neeson Theater for two back-to-back shows. 

 

As the audience filed into the theater, a video of Loie Fuller’s “Serpentine Dance” was projected onto the back wall of the stage.  The film is from 1896 and each frame of the film was tinted by hand to give an already beautiful and fluid dance piece the additional magic of what appears to be a color changing costume. The show continued to incorporate projected video and photos at the start of each piece taking us back in time to see the founding women of modern dance. This was a great addition to the show, however each clip lasted for close to a minute and the lack of background music made for a somewhat uncomfortable silence in the theater – interrupted more than once by someone’s cell phone ringing!

 

The show was 1 hour with 5 pieces. The first piece was “Valse Brillante”, originally choreographed by Isadora Duncan in 1915, performed by Lori Belilove & The Isadora Duncan Company. As the introduction video clip showed, many of Isadora Duncan’s works were performed outside in nature. This piece transported us to a summer garden with the light and airy movements flowing together perfectly to the buoyant music of a solo piano. The graceful silk costumes floated behind the dancers who beautifully executed a classic piece of modern dance. 

 

Martha Graham is one of the most well known names in modern dance with a long legacy. “Deep Song” is a solo work, originally performed by Martha Graham herself in 1937, recreated on the stage by Blakeley White McGuire of the Martha Graham Dance Company. It was performed in the same costume designed for the original piece, a lovely full-length black and white dress which is as much a part of the performance as the dancer and the bench incorporated into the choreography. The piece is powerful, full of fear and distress, and it had the audience entranced.

 

The final 3 pieces were newer works paying homage to other masters of modern dance including Doris Humphrey, Ruth St. Denis and Ruth Page. My favorite of these pieces was “A Picture of You Falling” by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. This solo piece was a short piece brilliantly performed by Jason Hortin in the show I attended.  Choreographed by Crystal Pite and set to a composition of voice-overs and sound effects, it was an amazingly athletic and noteworthy piece. With a flavor of bone breaking dance style characterized by rhythmic contorting movements of the body, it had me completely absorbed and as a short piece it left me wanting more! The level of applause for this piece in the curtain call has me thinking the rest of the audience agreed with me on this being a standout of the show!

 

Overall the show was a great tribute to the women whose creativity, inspiration and courage brought us a new form of dance that broke from the traditions of ballet and paved the way for so many dancers and choreographers after them. It was a great show even for those not versed in modern dance, with accessible pieces that stirred your emotions. The Chicago Dancing Festival runs from August 25th to the 29th and is a great opportunity for those passionate about dance as well as those who are just interested in a night out. If you missed it this summer, keep your eyes out for shows next summer!

 

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