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Dancin' up a 'joy storm'
By Vicki Crain
2012-05-09

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William Forsythe. Photo by Stephan Floss


Critically acclaimed contemporary dance company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago closes its 34th season later this month with three works from internationally renowned choreographers in the summer series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Known for pushing the envelope by commissioning work from emerging choreographers as well as obtaining the rights to perform well-known work from master choreographers, Hubbard Street pushes the audiences to grow and learn as much as it does the dancers. The series features three compelling, yet distinctly different dances to showcase the talents of this elite group of dancers.

Hubbard Street's resident choreographer, Spanish-born Alejandro Cerrudo, created Maltidos in 2010 collaborating with Nederlands Dans Theater of Holland. Traveling back and forth from The Hague, Cerrudo pieced together movement phrases from both groups of dancers, eventually combining them into a cohesive, stunning work.

"When I look at this work, it fells like a bridge between his earlier works like Off Screen and Deep Down Dos and his recent world premiere Little Mortal Jump," said Glenn Edgerton, Hubbard Street's artistic director. (Edgerton appointed Cerrudo as the company's first-ever resident choreographer in 2009.) "Maltidos is very sensitive. The final duets where a woman dances with three different men as they interchange in the dark is an interesting expression of how different people come into your life and affect you and then they're gone."

Also on the program is a work by Israeli choreographer and director of Batsheva Dance Company (which performed to much acclaim at the Auditorium Theatre in March); Ohad Naharin made THREE TO MAX for Hubbard Street in 2011. By combining excerpts of past works spanning a decade, he created a collage of movement for Hubbard Street to make its own. After premiering on the groundbreaking all-Israeli program, the company took the work to New York for the Fall for Dance festival prompting Dance Magazine editor-in-chief Wendy Perron to place THREE TO MAX on her "Best of 2011."

The centerpiece of the series is the company premiere of William Forsythe's Quintett. Although Forsythe won't be in Chicago for this show, he will meet with the dancers this summer when he receives the Samuel H. Scripps/American Dance Festival for Lifetime Achievement at the American Dance Festival in North Carolina. Hubbard Street is performing Quintett at the festival, and is the first U.S. company to perform this work. Another of his works is in the company's repertory from 2005, but local audiences recently got a taste of his style when Joffrey Ballet performed In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated in February. Where In the Middle (made in 1987) is strong, sharp and angular, Quintett is more rounded, warm and lush.

Three of the five members of the original 1993 Quintett cast are in Chicago setting the piece: Dana Casperson (Forsythe's wife), Thomas McManus and Stephen Galloway. Watching a rehearsal progress, it becomes obvious they are longtime friends. While teaching the same movement sequence, each breaks off helping the dancers master a different nuance or minute gesture in a work Casperson calls "gently specific." "We were talking about how the piece took 10 years to make," she said. "We'd all been in the [Forsythe] company a long time and had a strong relationship."

The music created by British composer Gavin Bryar brings a haunting touch with a repetitive chant recorded live from a man he passed frequently on the street. "Jesus' blood never failed me yet" is looped and repeated over and over as Bryar adds in an increasingly orchestral score. "I find it very meditative. You melt into it and sink into an abyss," said Edgerton. "It's really beautiful and knowing that it's a homeless person's voice, it has a weight and substance to it."

Another haunting quality comes from the fact that as these five friends came together to create this work, Forsythe's first wife was losing her battle with cancer. "I feel like this is the most personal piece of his, but not because of the context. It's not about the woman that passed away, but this is the result. There isn't any reference to death, but you can see the connection in the people and can tell there is more going on than just your average dance piece," Edgerton said. Rather than creating a somber tone, the work is meant to be uplifting. Forysthe said (via Casperson), "It's about how fiercely we want to live and to live fully." Casperson added, "It has a very fierce, joyful energy to it—a joy storm, but in a fierce way."

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph St. Performances are Thursday, May 31-Sunday, June 3. Show times vary. Tickets are $25-$94; call 312-850-9744 or the Harris Theater box office at 312-334-7777. For more information, visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com .

Also performing in May:

Chicago Human Rhythm Project celebrates National Tap Dance Day at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Pl. Thursday, May 10, at 10:30 a.m. and Friday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15-$25; call 773-281-1825 or visit www.chicagotap.org .

Elements Contemporary Ballet celebrates its five-year anniversary with a program of three world premieres, a company premiere and an encore work Saturday, May 12, at 8 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave. Tickets are $25-$30; call 773-935-6860 or visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org .

DanceWorks Chicago and African dance company Muntu Dance Theatre take the stage together at the Northshore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie at 9501 Skokie Blvd. Friday, May 11, at 12 p.m. ($5) ; or Saturday, May 12, at 2:30 p.m. ($10) and 8 p.m. ($30-$38); call 847-673-6300 or visit www.northshorecenter.org .

The Dance COLEctive performs COLEctive Notions for three shows Friday and Saturday, May 18-19 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 7 p.m. at Fassaes White Box Theatre in The Drucker Center, 1535 N. Dayton St. Tickets are $15, $10 for students and seniors; call 312-664-4631 or visit www.fanfueled.com/Venue/Details/509-fasseas-whitebox-theater.


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