Unlike contemporary ballet companies, which must present work by a range of choreographers to appear relevant and stay fresh, most modern dance troupes today are showcases for the choreographers who started them. Think Trisha Brown, Merce Cunningham, Bill T. Jones, or Paul Taylor, to name just a few. But Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is different.
One of only a handful of top-notch modern dance repertory companies, HSDC revels in the constant challenge of the new, tackling diverse works by hot young choreographers from around the world. No wonder the company is invariably characterized as versatile, innovative, and eclectic. That's all true, but I tend to think of it as hip, fearless, and fun. Hubbard Street's crackerjack dancers don't merely interpret the steps of others — they own them, grafting them onto a fully finessed individual and company persona that generates powerful sparks.
Founded twenty-five years ago by dancer-choreographer Lou Conte, HSDC is now led by Jim Vincent, an American with extensive international dance experience, who every year manages to commission new works to add to his company's already impressive cache of active repertoire. This season is no exception, with one bonus: for the first time, Vincent has choreographed for his own company.
And it's no mere vanity exercise. His counter/part is a layered costume chimera for ten dancers set to excerpts from Bach's Brandenburg concertos and Italian Concerto in F Major for Harpsichord. Though formally linked to those frisky rococo romps by Jiri Kylian that HSDC performs so winsomely, counter/part is a constellation apart: a genuine theatrical reflection of the music, punctuated by a courtly signature (two fingers carving the air above the head) and reverent atmospherics. Divided into two "counters" and four "parts," the mood alternates between buoyant energy and wrenching lyricism. Scroll patterns occasionally illuminate the floor. In one section, a woman dances with five men in varying pairs and a trio. She wraps, unravels, coils, and uncoils. The piece ends with a flurry of movement accompanied by the happy harpsichord.
Joining counter/part in three mixed programs to be presented at the Power Center September 20-22 are two works that make their return to Ann Arbor — Harrison McEldowney's Let's Call the Whole Thing Off, a bouncy, bantering duet of jazz dance, swing, and hip-hop; and Ohad Naharin's inventive and forceful Minus 16 — in addition to Naharin's recent intimate duet Passomezzo; two Kylian standards, No More Play and Petite mort; and the local premiere of a work by Nacho Duato, whose hypnotic Jardi tancat (Enclosed Garden) HSDC performed here two years ago.