BWW Review: HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO & THIRD COAST PERCUSSION BLEND THEIR TALENTS INTO A FASCINATING EVENT at The Wallis Annenberg Center For The Performing Arts
Hubbard Street, a well-established Contemporary Dance Company presents an interesting collage of dance pieces that are demanding technique-wise yet so fluid and rhythmic they make it look effortless and fresh. I mention collage because the evening painted a bigger picture through each piece, making it complete by the finish.
The sixteen dancers are amazing physical interpreters of a feeling, a mood, an emotion, a vibe. They are strong, versatile and vibrant.
The pieces by themselves are each complex, deep, bold, unique; with maximum controlled energy, extreme focus and inner and outer strength required, or rather, mandatory to perform them. That verbiage might seem a bit jumbled, but it's what I felt after seeing these dancers perform... (That's my stream-of-consciousness statement)
This company has grown from the Lou Conte Dance Company of Chicago in the '70s with his careful guidance and inspiration, into year-round performance-scheduled Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, continually both preserving and creating new works added into their repertoire. As a teen, Lou Conte was one of the tap teachers I studied with.
The opening, "Perfectly Voiceless" was the premiere of the Third Coast Percussion group's instrumental creation by Dev Hynes (Blood Orange) that showcases it's proliferous range of sounds, complexity of rhythm and dynamics and style of performance. Third Coast Percussion is a Grammy-winning, artist-run quartet of classically-trained percussionists, also based in Chicago. Incorporating their classical training with stylistic influences ranging from Zimbabwean mbira music to art rock.
This program highlights musical polymath Devonté Hynes, and the ensemble's own compositions, throughout the evening.
The first dance piece, choreographed by Emma Porter, entitled "For All It's Fury," a West Coast premiere, was eccentric, inventive, and modern in presentation with wild isolated movements and poses that flowed through each other and created an unusual visual flow of movement with distinct characters catching your eye as they stood out in their particular manner. Rena Butler dances solo through the entire piece as she floats through different groupings and formations, sometimes pulling down front dancing an exquisite dance of her own. I noticed the dancers' constant intertwining with each other, almost never not physically touching one another within a section or pas de deux. There was an intenseness, but there were little surprise bursts of lightness in the staging and portrayals that made you smile ~ very involving to watch play out ~ The performers were: Craig D. Black, Jr., Alicia Delgadillo, Kellie Eppenheimer, Elliot Hammans, Adrienne Lipson, Florian Lochner, Andrew Murdoch and Rena Butler, pictured above.
Teddy Forance's "Everything Must Go," also premiering here on the West Coast, was the most in tune with the percussion sounds and rhythms and the dancers were in tune with each other's movements. It begins with a trio standing center stage ringing bells that are in each hand, chiming a melody that ends in a dissonant treble note breaking them into moving formations, dancing in unison, as the sounds multiply and blossom into fuller melodies. At first the dancers are loose and fluid, but, somewhat like the first piece, as the tempo increases and becomes more intricate they tighten in together and compartmentalize their movements, everyone connected to each other in some way. A nice end section, quite clean and in unison, spinning in plie en attitude derriere. Same performers as above.
Alejandro Cerrudo's "PACOPEPEPLUTO" was the most engaging, purely carefree yet with precise movements trio of male solo performances set to the music and vocals of three Dean Martin songs and woven together like a glove. That could also be the description of their dancing, as each of them soloed out to " In the Chapel in the Moonlight," "Memories are Made of This," and "That's Amore" performed by Craig D. Black, Jr., Florian Lochner and Michael Gross.
All three held their own, looked gorgeous, danced beautifully and playfully and entertained us highly. Athletics, Acrobatics, Gymnastics, mixed with some fabulous grand jetes, stag leaps and sexy moves kept us all happy and fully attentive. Notably Craig D. Black, Jr., who has the most beautiful long lines when he moves, and makes somersaults look sensual, and Florian Lochner, who dazzled with knee work, floor work, spins, grande jetes, threw some head rolls in there, a nip-up, and has a demanding presence on stage. Michael Gross was charming and delightful in "That's Amore."
"Ignore," by noted Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, using Charles Bukowski's poem, I have seen before, done by a different company, as a solo performance. Even though it affords the performers to show their strength and flexibility and line through the choreography, and is a very difficult piece to perform, I can't help but find it just too repetitious. I know that is part of it's tempo and message, but watching it somehow makes me uneasy after a while. Not to diminish the artists' performance of it... The dancers: Rena Butler, Jacqueline Burnett, Alicia Delgadillo, Kellie Eppenheimer, and Adrienne Lipson were all strong, sharp and flexible.
The final piece was absolutely mesmerizing. "Solo Echo" by Crystal Pike (of Ballet BC/Nederlands Dans Theatre) really takes you away with it and is so movement-enhanced, with different shapes and forms constantly changing within the clumped structure of the dancers that were at times so complex and filled with nuances of movements and other times loose and free, sometimes large, sometimes compact, always morphing into the next configuration.
The music was heavenly. Deep, rich Sonatas by Brahms, featuring cello and piano solos and duets. There is snow falling down the back scrim. Based upon Mark Strand's poem "Lines for Winter" it tackles intense emotions and interactions enacted between the dancers. There were many shorter solo passes within the piece, and excellent performances by each dancer: Jacqueline Burnett, Kellie Epperheimer, Elliot Hammans, Michael Gross, Adrienne Lipson, Florian Lochner and Andrew Murdock. All working splendidly as a unit, or taking off into fractions or taking point.
Costumes were geared toward simpicity and functionality, and worked well with the choreography, lighting and moods.
Glenn Edgerton, the Artistic Director, is a seasoned performer and director, also an alumni, and is now devoting his efforts to their Mission; to aid Hubbard Street in bringing everyone together to enrich, engage, educate and change lives through dance. The Lou Conte Dance Studio is going strong in Chicago as well as outreach programs of many types that contribute to their community.
An accomplished Dance Company molding New and Innovative Work in New and Different Ways.
PHOTO CREDIT: Kevin Parry