On June 6th, 8thand 9th, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) put on its 2019 season Summer Series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago. The program remained the same throughout the series dates, with different soloists for the second piece on Saturday. The Series event also marked the final performances for HSDC dancers Michael Gross, Myles Lavallee, Florian Lochner and Ana Lopez. The evening consisted of four well-curated dances, two works for multiple dancers bookending two duets by Canadian choreographer Crystal Pite from her The You Show.
The Loss of Place was choreographed by Brian Brooks, whose first commission in 2016 as Inaugural Choreographer-in-Residence at The Harris Theater was set on HSDC. That piece, Terrain,was also a propulsive work of “individual collectivism”. The Loss of Place is a fast-paced piece in which a dozen dancers repeatedly rise, fall, and run in progressive symmetrical waves until the symmetry is interrupted and they “lose their place”. They then falter, search about, and the group dynamic seems to break apart, revealing them as all-too-human. It’s a representation in movement of personal frailty, of individuality distinct from the group.
Crystal Pite’s work is known for exploring issues of the self. The two duets were essentially interior reflections of aspects of personality and then dual images of those personae. The first duet, A Picture of You Falling, finds a focused light on the dark stage following Jacqueline Burnett and Elliott Hammans while Kate Strong’s taped voiceover intones such lines as, “Here you are again”, and “This is the sound of your heart hitting the floor”, while the pair of dancers pantomime the action referenced. The Other You, danced by Michael Gross and Andrew Murdock, seemed to literally reflect a conflict between the self and the “wannabe” self, as each dancer mimicked the action of the other in a carefully patterned way. The pair of dances fit together and were a clever complement to the other, the dancers in each projecting an innate sense of humor along with a deliberately self-conscious serious attitude.
The finale was the last portion of HSDC’s former resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo’s cerebrally luminous Out of Your Mind, which premiered last spring when HSDC put on a retrospective of his work. This dance, set to refreshingly witty intoned text by noted British philosopher Alan Watts, was especially choreographed to fit the Auditorium’s imposing stage and sweeping proscenium arch as well as created for the HSDC dancers .
The action seemed to fill and brighten up every corner of the deep stage, as 16 superb athletes inhabited the atmosphere, creating iconic and transcendent images in empty space. As in the interpretations of “enlightenment” being uttered by Watts, every step taken was colored by the persons/personalities of the dancers as crafted by the unerring, knowing touch of Cerrudo. Sometimes seeming like principals in a meditation-ballet, the dancers gave the audience a depiction in the flesh of the malleability of memory and form, projecting and embodying a sense of lightness.
It is always exhilarating to participate in the experience of HSDC; their absolute ability to absorb any form and impart the beauty of their athletic prowess is a joy to behold.
Kudos to lighting designers Nicole Pearce, Robert Sondergaard and Burke Brown for the subtlety of their craft; to costume designers Karen Young, Linda Chow and Branimira Ivanova, for dressing the dancers seemingly casually yet so well; and to Jerome Begin, Owen Belton, Beethoven and “various artists” for the compelling music and sound design.
All photos by Todd Rosenberg