Not your usual song & dance 

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Artistic director Jim Vincent
Clowes Memorial Hall
Oct. 24

Hubbard Street Dance is all over the globe with a company and choreographers whose worldwide aesthetics challenge dance as it’s “expected” to be. There was something in the choreography to unsettle complacency throughout the program. Consistent throughout, however, was high energy, athleticism, fluidity, grace and audience engagement.

Hubbard Street’s role in the changing “model of dance” was pointed out during the standing-room-only pre-performance discussion. Butler Ballet faculty member Susan McGuire compared her experiences dancing with Martha Graham and Paul Taylor dance companies. It’s not just the founder and his/her choreography. Nor is it ballet or modern. “Companies now are more open to other choreography with a mix of both ballet and modern and dancers have rich backgrounds with other companies and all genres. Dancers do not all look alike. Each has a distinctive movement and a distinctive approach to the material. Dancers are becoming more versatile and adventurous. You have to stay open.”

Staying open was indeed essential. Company member Alejendro Cerrudo provided deft storytelling and a sense of illusion with choreography for “Off Screen,” danced by six who made it seem like a dozen as they bodily manipulated in-out-under-around a stage-sized tarp that took on differing hues with lighting changes. Moods and feelings sometimes flitted, sometimes zipped, sometimes slow-motioned, in and out of sadness, humor, anger, joy, love, dislike, sureness, timidity portrayed in varying configurations. Sometimes corps work seemed off-beat, but in retrospect it could have been intentional — it’s what happens when the playback itself is out of sync.

Imagery of fall leaves whipped into whimsy made “The Constant Shift of Pulse” feel fresh and essential. Yet it is billed as challenging the viewer’s concept of the relationship between personal and shared space as 15 dancers “test the boundaries of trust and release” in very fast-paced configurations.

“Minus 16” began even before the full audience returned to seats following intermission. A solo dancer in black suit and white shirt teased with slow stretching moves. Other dancers, similarly attired, filtered on stage. Suddenly, music exploded, pushing a frenzy of movement before blackout and lights up to a stage full of dancers on chairs miming the 12 verses of “Echod Mi Odayah,” an Israeli cumulative song asking “Who Knows One, Two, Three” etc. You either found it humorous or repetitive and boring. Blackout and lights up to bare stage with chairs gone and dancers in the aisles summoning selected audience members to the stage. Within minutes, non-dancers were dancer-ly in corps groupings and paired with dancers. Along with eclectic music one heard taped ideas and thoughts of the dancers and of Ohad Naharin, choreographer and costume and lighting designer. It left a lot to chew on.

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Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn

Rita Kohn has been covering craft beer and the arts for NUVO for two decades. She’s the author of True Brew: A Guide to Craft Beer in Indiana.

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