Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Return to Philadelphia

By Debra Danese for The Dance Journal | Photo credit: Quinn B. Wharton

Dance enthusiasts filled the Annenberg Center this past Saturday in anticipation of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s long awaited return to Philadelphia. After a ten year absence from Philadelphia stages, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was back to celebrate their 40th anniversary with a packed program of contemporary work. The company also paid tribute to the Annenberg Center’s long standing reputation for presenting new works by staging four Philadelphia premieres. Glenn Edgerton, Artistic Director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago since 2009, spoke briefly before the performance about their 40th anniversary tour. He expressed that the program selections demonstrated “where the company is at, at this moment.” He also spoke highly of the choreographers, three of which he described as “master choreographers, meaning they are prolific in their work.”

The performance opened with William Forsythe’s N.N.N.N. Four dancers were tasked with setting their own rhythms and dynamics using only vocal cues and murmurs of Thom Willem’s music to accompany them. The movements almost always initiated though the arms before engaging other parts of the body. This was a complex piece with the dancers almost constantly interweaving. The ever increasing tempo culminated with the dancers linking in a series of connections requiring a highly skilled sense of timing and coordination. The four dances that followed Forsythe’s were equally interesting, yet vastly different from each other. The pieces highlighted the company’s versatility and technical proficiency.

Acclaimed choreographer, Nacho Duato, did not disappoint with his piece entitled ViolinCello (Duet from Multiplicity. Forms of Silence and Emptiness.) Dancer Michael Gross was seated onstage and dressed as an 18th century musician. He was presented a cello bow by fellow dancer Jacqueline Burnett, who was dressed in black.  Burnett became the instrument in a highly imaginative dance set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach. This was another moment in the program that showcased the dancers’ innate sense of musicality. The piece lasted a brief few minutes which was just enough time to remain clever and inventive without feeling repetitious. It was also unique and memorable and gave a glimpse as to why Duato won a prestigious choreography award for Multiplicity, Forms of Silence and Emptiness.

Additional pieces included works by Robyn Mineko Williams, Alejandro Cerrudo and Crystal Pite.  Cerrudo’s PACOPEPEPLUTO was witty and refreshing while showcasing dancers Andrew Murdock, Kevin J. Shannon and David Schultz. Set to music by Dean Martin and Joe Scalissi, the dancers were costumed only in dance belts. Light designer, Matt Miller, chose to dimly light the stage which took the focus off of the costumes and instead accentuated the muscularity of the dancers. Light design by Burke Brown was also well thought out in Mineko William’s Cloudline. The piece featured a series of elegant duets, the last of which was performed with a large piece of silk. Company members moved the material so it appeared to float above and below the featured dancers. The effect was ethereal. Lastly, Pite’s Solo Echo utilized tableaus to intersect the performers and was a strong finish to the program.

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