Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Urbana, IL

Written by:
Alyssa Schoeneman
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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
Urbana, Ill.
Sept. 23, 2010

There is a reason why Hubbard Street is one of the most widely recognized names in Chicago’s dance world – they are a company of technical dynamos.

At the performance at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts (parts of which will be repeated on the company’s national tour; see, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presented four works: “Tabula Rasa,” choreographed by Ohad Naharin; “Blanco” and “Deep Down Dos,” choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo; and “Untouched,” choreographed by Aszure Barton with assistance from Jonathan Alsberry.

The influence of Naharin’s signature movement language, Gaga, was highly evident throughout his work, “Tabula Rasa.”  Gaga technique strives to establish a flow throughout the entire body that allows complete fluidity, no matter where the movement is initiated, according to the term’s definition. The Hubbard Street dancers seem to have grown into their “Gaga skins,” emitting an air of calmness throughout the piece despite the choreography’s high legs, air tours and speedy partnering.

Though the first portion of “Tabula Rasa” brought an invigorating flurry of movement, which was complete with frequent shifts of weight, level and direction, the true technical test lay in the dancers’ ability to quickly shift dynamic gears.  In the piece’s second section, definable only by movement vocabulary, the dancers sequentially moved from downstage right to downstage left in a measured progression, rocking back and forth in unison like a quiet metronome. When the slate had finally been wiped clean, a trio of two men and one woman emerged, providing an intimate study of assumed gender roles both in dance and in larger society; the men embrace and lift one another, leaving the woman to negotiate an often solo role.  The trio brought back elements of understated humor that had been present in “Tabula Rasa’s” first section, adding a playful undercurrent to an otherwise somber moment in the choreography.

“Blanco” highlighted four of HSDC’s female members with its sensual but highly balletic movement vocabulary. Individual spotlighted solos honed audience members’ focuses to arabesques, full body hinges and side tilts, in addition to bouts of floor work and even the occasional headstand. Angular accents such as flexed wrists and bent legs decorated much of the traditional ballet vocabulary, imbuing a sense of attitude and strength in the dancers.

“Deep Down Dos,” Cerrudo’s second piece of choreography for the evening, was almost cinematic in its constant scene-changing and its use of props.  The theater noticeably dropped in temperature as the piece began; a single light shining into the audience and a large apparatus stage right combined to create an almost industrial setting onstage.  The dance began with a whimsical male quartet, a boy’s club of sorts; the men skated across the floor in their grounded movements and emphasized sweeping suspension in their leaps, all while maintaining a tone of lighthearted mischief. This scene was quickly erased by a group of female dancers with a similarly sneaky quality. “Deep Down Dos’” climax occurred in a section of overlapping male and female group choreography, which highlighted brief moments of unison and mirrored gestures. A long duet at the end of the piece effectively killed its previously rolling momentum, a quality that up until then had been “Dos’” most redeeming.

The program was wrapped up with a performance of “Untouched,” a piece of choreography that was created by Barton and Alsberry in collaboration with the HDSC dancers. Fleeting references to the company’s previous repertoire were evident throughout the choreography and added an extra layer of satisfaction for long-time HDSC followers. For example, “Untouched” features the beaver-esque head movements born in Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16,” a piece that HDSC performed during its 2008 Krannert Center show. It was evident in the company members’ smiling interactions with one another that they were enjoying the piece as much as the audience was; “Untouched” kept the audience laughing and engaged as the evening drew to a close.

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