Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s performance at the Annenberg Center features five distinct pieces that commemorate the 40th season of the company. A cast of incredible movers highlights the long-term success of the company, encompassing the range work they present.
Opening the program is a William Forsythe piece entitled “N.N.N.N.” that features a square of light from above covering the stage for the duration. The piece begins with a familiar, yet curious motion as a single dancer tosses his hand towards the ceiling several times, allowing the action to grow subtly. Three others, who complete the cast, eventually join the dancer. There is connectivity among all of them, and though they perform individualistic movement at many points, it always serves the link. The percussive sounds that the dancers create with their mouths are the main sound of the piece, minus a few quick interruptions. The sounds that the dancers create cast silliness over the entire work.
Robyn Mineko Williams’ “Cloudline” is, in my opinion, the strongest and most innovative work of the night. It is captivating and unexpected. A billowy sheet of cloth the size of the stage creates an unraveling fantasy, coming in and out of the work in new and exciting ways. The sheet takes on a movement quality of its own, embodying a soft explosion that is fascinating to watch. It is also, however, highly functional as a choreographic element, echoing the departure of a lifted dancer with billowing raptures, continuously dividing the worlds of two lovers, and, at times, filling the floor with two-dimensional texture. This piece effectively deals with change. We are taken on a narrative that could easily represent ten years of time. And in the end, we can feel both the warmth of fantastical experience and the weight of the passage of time.
“ViolinCello”by Nacho Duato pictures a colonially dressed man, literally playing a female dancer with a bow. The female dancer is dressed in a tight, black shorts and a tank top. It presents a clear stereotype and features the music of Bach. It struck me as the only time I can remember feeling uncomfortable listening to Bach.
The fourth work of the night, “PACOPEPEPLUTO” choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, featured three male solos. With celebratory, sometimes comical movement, it captures a feat of boyhood. We are not watching a narrative, but a representation of three distinct acts of male splendor.
Crystal Pite’s choreography finishes off the evening with “Solo Echo.” The piece begins with a dancer standing still stage right, while a line of light illuminates falling snow-like specks in the background. The specks fall throughout the piece, and the line of light slowly moves up and down the back wall, until eventually the whole background is illuminated. This created a constant flow of movement throughout the piece, so that even when the dancers are still, the space isn’t. This choice of background created a cinematic perspective.
Hubbard Street’s commemoration of their fortieth year challenges the audience with a carefully arranged roster of works that is infinitely worth watching.
[Annenberg Center Live, 3680 Walnut Street] October 20-21, 2017;annenbergcenter.org