Chicago Dance Review: HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO (Season 39 Summer Series at the Harris)

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by Lawrence Bommer on June 9, 2017

in Dance,Theater-Chicago


For Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, it’s time to take stock. This 100-minute evening does it all and well. It’s as much a showcase for seven seminal choreographers (Lou Conte, Twyla Tharp, Jim Vincent, Alejandro Cerrudo, Crystal Pite, William Forsythe and Lucas Crandall) as for one powerfully plucky Chicago troupe. Ending Sunday at the Harris Theatre, Hubbard Street’s Season 39 Summer SeriesHubbard Street at 40—delivers a dance per decade.

The greater-than-its-parts whole charts a literal movement as palpable as politics and as kinetic as a power grid. There is no world premiere on this eight-piece program of complete or representative offerings. It’s all about crowd-pleasing feats of feet and arms. Well-contrasted works reflect the impulses and concerns of different dynamic dance shapers.

The opening adventure is Lucas Crandall’s Imprint, a tender duet for Emilie Leriche and Jesse Bechard to one of Bach’s sublime Goldberg Variations. Statuesque and languorous lovers, their lines and leaps perfectly mirror each other, finding the same inevitability from moment to moment that Bach creates from note to note.

Organized chaos, One Flat Thing, reproduced is a free-for-all explosion of barely processed energy. Detonated to a vaguely industrial, non-musical backdrop by Thom Willems, William Forsythe’s fluid romp involves 14 dancers leaping onto or over assorted tables. Resembling a high-school food fight without the fries, it’s fueled by the raw anarchy of non-negotiable youth, with a dozen stories permutating across a busy stage. Or, as the title suggests, it could well be one action seen from several sides, escalating as it’s recreated.

In serene contrast, Alejandro Cerrudo’s impressionistic “Water Section” (from his 2012 One Thousand Pieces) plays sensuous and floating variations to a haunting composition for cello by Philip Glass. Against a blue mist revealed by a half-dropped curtain and across a wet stage, two groups of four dancers engage in the mute eloquence of action and reaction, moving to the silence between the notes as much as to the score.

Opening the second half is an excerpt from Jim Vincent’s Palladio featuring Kellie Epperheimer, Michael Gross, Ana Lopez and Andrew Murdock in rapid-fire relationships suggested by reflexive, quicksilver interlockings and intertwinings full of grace and power.

Jesse Bechard’s solo work in Crystal Pite’s sardonic A Picture of You Falling is a deliberately fragmented depiction of, among other narrated events, “a heart hitting the floor.” Kinetically convulsive, the short work all but parses a one-man tumble into its constituent terrors and jolting jerks. If an elevator’s descent is in effect a controlled fall, Bechard breaks the drop down beautifully. (Jason Hortin will alternate in this very personal plummet.)

Equally engaging, Lou Conte’s duet to Willie Nelson’s recording of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Georgia” puts Jacqueline Burnett and Jason Hortin (alternately, Jessica Tong and David Schultz) through the movements of a memory. Imagined as a flashback from an unanswered phone call, it’s a filigreed and emotive evocation and a rhapsodic depiction of a lover’s obsessive search for lost security.

Two terrific action pieces conclude the recital. Vintage Twyla Tharp, The Golden Section employs 13 tawny-costumed performers in a flamboyant, super-charged “fast-forward” that’s all but epileptic. Limbs askew and turning on a dime, speed-freak dancers create some funky fun to David Byrne’s driving sounds.

Finally, Hubbard Street’s definitive signature piece remains the ultimate audience pleaser: Lou Conte’s galvanic, pulse-pounding, pile-driving The 40s has ended many evenings on grace notes and lofty kicks. Sy Oliver’s delicious jazz masterpiece “Opus Number One” is the perfect excuse for high-stepping happiness. The entire company erupts in Lindy Hops, jitterbugs, and hepcat struts, shuffling, strutting and shimmying enough to bring back the big bands. Sassy be-bop turns into contagious jubilation in this swing thing from hipster heaven. Limbs simply can’t get looser. The final famous tableau freezes the frenzy into the ultimate photo op–40 years concentrated into one pose.

photos by Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Season 39 Summer Series
Harris Theater for Music and Dance
Millennium Park, 205 East Randolph St
ends on June 11, 2017
for tickets, call 312-850-9744 or visit Hubbard

for more shows, visit Theatre in Chicago

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