Versatile and Varied
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
by Amanda Stanger-Read
I've always thought of Chicago as the Midwest Broadway outpost, so it comes as no surprise that Lou Conte, a Broadway tap and jazz dancer, started Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. I've seen the company several times and have consistently been impressed with the dancers' power, athleticism, and artistry. In anticipation of their performance April 22-24 at the Power Center, I delved a little deeper and discovered that HSDC is not just a jazz dance company. Since its inception in the mid-1970s the group has attracted nationally known choreographers of all genres, from modern dance's Twyla Tharp to ballet's William Forsythe. HSDC is a repertory company, not one driven by a single choreographer's vision. As a result, the dances range across the stylistic spectrum, and the dancers in the company are extremely versatile.
This season they once again present a varied program, and depending on what performance you choose you will see three of five different pieces. Only two pieces will appear in all three shows. The first is 27'52", choreographed by Jiri Kylian, the former director of Nederlands Dans Theater; HSDC is the only company in the United States licensed to perform it. The video clip on the HSDC website hints at a series of duets in which the dancers manipulate each other and even the floor on which they dance. The other, Walking Mad, is choreographed by Johan Inger, to music by Ravel. The piece is based on a phrase from Socrates--"our greatest blessings come to us by way of madness"--and is called a "madcap comedy."
Ohad Naharin, an Israeli choreographer, is the creator of Tabula Rasa, set to music by Arvo Part. In a clip from the second half of the piece, the dancers fling their limbs, their whole bodies, and one another across the stage while never appearing to be out of control.
In At'em (Atem) Adam, choreographed by Terence Marling, rehearsal director and artistic associate of HSDC, the dancers perform gestural movements, weight sharing, and
innovative floor work.
Bitter Suite, choreographed by Jorma Elo, and set to music of Mendelssohn and Monteverdi, is the jazziest of all the pieces, with shiny leotards and flexed jazz wrists. Elo is a Finnish choreographer whose works have been performed by most of the world's finest ballet companies.
Whatever performance you attend, you are likely to be impressed by the skill and versatility of the dancers and will get a great taste of all that is going on in contemporary dance. UMS labels the concert "family friendly" and designates it appropriate for ages nine and up.
[Originally published in April, 2010.]