The story goes that Glenn Edgerton, the artistic director of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Tom Mossbrucker, the artistic director of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, have been best friends since they danced together at the Joffrey Ballet. So when the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet toured to Chicago in 2013, Edgerton threw a party for the company and invited the Hubbard Street dancers to attend. This was the "meet cute" of Kevin Shannon, a dancer with Hubbard Street, and Craig D. Black Jr., a dancer with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet at the time.
At first, Shannon was weary of entering a long-distance relationship so it took some persistence on Black's part and the help of their mutual friends to finally get the two dating.
Fast-forward four years and the couple is celebrating their first wedding anniversary. And to make a sweet story even sweeter, this fall Black permanently relocated to Chicago to join his husband as a company member with Hubbard Street Dance.
The two spoke with the Windy City Times about living together, dancing together and this weekend's Hubbard Street performances dedicated to the choreography of Crystal Pite.
Windy City Times: So, how's it been working in the same company together?
Kevin Shannon: You know, I've been in the company for 11 seasons and Craig just joined in September. We were both a little nervous about it but it's been great. ... I think that's been a surprise for me because I thought it might be more difficult than that. I thought there might be some tension working together but it hasn't been that way at all. We've never been a competitive couple. And the two of us are really very different dancers. It's been really nice.
Craig D. Black Jr.: Yeah, it's a little different from being in a classical company with rankings where your partner could be a principal dancer and you could be a core member. We don't have to deal with that sort of thing. Everybody's dancing together all the time. And we all have different parts and we are all involved in the process.
KS: For me, it's been great to have a support system. If I'm having a bad day, he understands why. If something went wrong at work or we're exhausted, we get to just go home and be together and have an understanding of that.
CDBJ: To have each other there, to cook dinner together or go out to eat and just leave it for the day if that's what's needed. … The support system of actually being with each other has been a nice change.
WCT: Are you dancing in the same pieces for this upcoming performance?
KS: Right now, we are working on three pieces for the Crystal Pite program and in one of them, a duet called A Picture of You Falling, Craig is dancing and I'm actually the cover for that duet. I'm understudying the "new guy." [Laughs]. It's fun to see dancers come in and take on new work. And to have it be your husband, to watch somebody you love grow into a work and to watch the process. … It's pretty amazing.
CDBJ: The other great thing is that when we do share parts, we are both very different dancers from each other. It's cool to see how we interpret the same role differently.
WCT: How would you describe your differences?
KS: Craig is much longer than I am so I would say that his movement is, um, more fluid in some ways.
CDBJ: Yeah, I'm more fluid and you know my former company was a little more classical so I'm a bit more upright.
CDBJ: The more I'm here with Hubbard I'm getting deeper and lower.
KS: My training is more modern and classic contemporary. But I'm shorter and I have bursts of energy.
CDBJ: He's definitely a powerhouse.
KS: I can jump and Craig is a turner. Craig can do like six turns and I can barely do two.
CDBJ: [Laughs] Stopthat's not true.
KS: But I can do double tours. So there are different strengths. Our sense of power comes from different places. I think that's cool because I see what he does and I think, I could elongate there or be more fluid here. He probably sees what I do and thinks he can be more powerful in certain parts of the choreography.
CDBJ: One thing we do share in common is that we can both be fairly dramatic in performance, but only when a piece calls for it. I think all three pieces in the upcoming show call for a certain level of drama.
WCT: Can you tell us more about Pite's work?
KS: Crystal's work really speaks about humanity and what's happening in the world. She doesn't just make dance for dance's sake. There is always something beyond that. So, in doing this work it also makes us want to explore what else is out there. We have to pay attention to what else is happening [in the world] so that when we come back to the dance, it is more informed.
CDBJ: I think that kind of influence also helps audiences engage in the work and in the program as a whole. Her work is real. It's what we are experiencing in life.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will devote an entire program to choreographers Crystal Pite on Dec. 7-10 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. Tickets are $25-$110 each; visit HubbardStreetDance.com or call 312-635-3799.