Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at The Kennedy Center

The Thespian readily admits that while I have an extensive background classical dance, my exposure to contemporary dance is more limited.    For my introduction to "modern" dance I am eternally grateful to my years attending Interlochen Arts Academy which provided many opportunities to view touring companies, student recitals and guest artists creating modern dance works on the talented students of the Academy.  With that disclaimer up front, I readily admit that I am not a qualified expert in contemporary dance and do not feel that this review should be taken as a definitive analysis of this company's work.   However, as an audience member, I feel I can give my impressions of the company and whether I actually liked the work presented.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago(HSDC) was formed in 1977 by dance teacher and choreographer Lou Conte.   It has had a wide ranging focus over the past three decades going from teaching tap classes to attracting well known choreographers to work with the company to creating new works in 2010.   Two of the three pieces presented on the Eisenhower Stage were created in 2010 and one of those made its U.S. premiere.

The current artistic director, Glenn Edgerton is focusing on creating new works and "strengthening the company's repertoire while cultivating and deepening relationships with collaborative partners."

The first piece, Untouched was choreographed by Aszure Barton in collaboration with the dancers of HSDC.    It is a lush piece framed by red velvet curtains and the dancers are richly caparisoned in gorgeous costumes designed by Fritz Masters.     Each dancer has an individual style, yet they complement each other showing the inherent musically of the HSBC dancers.

The U.S. Premiere of Malditos followed the first intermission.   Choreographed by dancer Alejandro Cerrudo it has had a unique journey to the stage, for Mr. Cerrudo created the piece simultaneously on two different companies, HSDC and Nederlands Dans Theatre 2.    This required him to travel between the two companies and he stated during a talkback that the piece evolved depending on which dancers he was currently working with.    It features some stunningly beautiful partnering and again shows the natural lyricism of the HSDC dancers.

Following the second intermission was 27' 52".   The title refers to the length of the piece.   For a novice to contemporary dance this was the most challenging work to attempt to comprehend.   And it did not help the flow of the piece that a section of the set fell during the beginning of the performance requiring a pause and a restart.    It is presented in the program as "a game of seeking and being sought, of holding and being held, pulling and pushing, a game in which the dancer must ultimately exit the stage solo."  The dance contains many jarring elements from a foreign language being spoken forwards and backwards, to the dance floor being ripped out from under the feet of the dancers to the set pieces crashing to the ground (this time intentionally).   It also featured an emotional pas de deux for a man and woman in which both are topless, yet the "gimmick" did not feel gratuitous.    The Thespian is not sure if I cared for the piece, but it was an interesting challenge to watch.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago only performed at The Kennedy Center on November 12 and 13, 2010.    For information on the company and future performances please visit

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