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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at the Joyce Theater….

May 25, 2013
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Jacqueline Burnett in Aszure Barton’s Untouched. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Jacqueline Burnett in Aszure Barton’s Untouched. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

I had never witnessed a performance of the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, so I was very excited about the opportunity of during so during their stay at the Joyce Theater. I was interested more in Program B then Program A. Program A consisted of Mats Eks’ Casi-Casi, which I think rather genius and Ohad Naharin’s Three to Max. I had already seen Ohad Naharin’s Three to Max at the City Center’s 2012 Fall for Dance Festival and promised myself, after seeing it, that I would never again willingly submit myself to such cruelty….

The evening began with Untouched, a work created for the company by Aszure Barton in 2010. Ms. Barton created the piece by working independently with each original cast member and developing the movement and then afterwards selecting the music.

Sadly for the composers, saxophonist and composer Curtis Macdonald; pianist and musical director Njo Kong Kie; and Russian-born violist Lev “Ljova” Zhurbi, their beautiful score does not always seem to fit Ms. Barton’s movement choices nor does it seem quite right for the work as a whole. Ms. Barton colored her choreography with a Spanish motive that did not meld with the music at all. The score has a delicious romanticism and lyricism that Ms. Burton seems to parody more than promote.

The work opens with Meredith Dincolo entering the stage though drawn red curtains. She begins a touching and evoking solo performed in a swath of light.

The dancers exit and enter the stage through these same curtains; the lighting is very dark and the dancers’ facial expressions are indiscernible. The work was beautifully danced by the company; the dancers are exquisite technicians with superb artistry.

Whenever I see a work of Ms. Burton’ s I always feel that there is always something missing. I find myself longing for a certain clarity of purpose in her works… sadly Untouchable is the same.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Johnny McMillan in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Pacopepepluto.  Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Johnny McMillan in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Pacopepepluto. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s Pacopepepluto was a rather interesting work. It was a trio for Johnny McMillan, David Schultz and Pablo Piantino and set to songs from the 50‘s and 60’s popularized by the “king of cool” Dean Martin.  A work of beauty and athleticism, the dancers flowed through their movements while appearing almost nude.

The work had moments of whimsy, while Dean Martin crooned That’s Amore one dancer scuttles onto the stage and then scuttles backwards into the wings which is the repeated by another dancer. I think I saw a blown kiss somewhere but I’m not sure. Matt Miller’s lighting design had the stage so dark you had to look hard to see the dancers at all. I gave up trying to see facial expressions and it was so dark that all three men looked identical. A shame for the lighting design really hampered what could have been a great work. (I actually found myself wishing I had brought a flashlight so I could better see the performance.)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Sharon Eyal and Gaї Behar’s Too Beaucoup. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Sharon Eyal and Gaї Behar’s Too Beaucoup. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

For me the highlight of the evening was Too Beaucoup, created for the company in 2011 by the Israeli team of Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. The dancers were dressed in white body suits, white wigs and white contact lens that left them genderless. The effect leant the work an eerie sense of otherworldliness.

The sixteen dancers marched on stage to a club mixed rhythmical beat and begin to move in unison. Their movements and phrasing hint at a familiarity with the Gaga-ism of Ohad Naharin. Moving here and there, body movements range from small gestures to abrupt kicks to the side as they prance around the stage.

It was an interesting work, at one point the lighting was projected from behind the dancers so that large silhouettes were reflected from the stage unto the walls of the Joyce. But it was way too long, what started as an interesting work was quickly worn away by the choreography’s repetitive nature. If it had been cut in half time-wise it would have been brilliant.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, under the artistic leadership of Glenn Edgerton, is celebrating its 35th season. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago grew out of the Lou Conte Dance Studio at LaSalle and Hubbard Streets in 1977, when Lou Conte gathered an ensemble of four dancers to perform in senior centers across Chicago. Glenn Edgerton became Artistic Director in 2009.

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