The season opener for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago included everything but the kitchen sink (although the stove was there…).
The Harris Theater for Music and Dance is generally a fantastic venue to watch Hubbard Street perform, but I had a hard time connecting to Robyn Mineko Williams’s Fluence in such a vast place – even from just 15 rows back. Many of the details of this piece, including sharp, otherworldly gestures resembling popping and locking and a few Michael Jackson-type stylings, were a tad awkward in what was an otherwise monochromatic world…… that is….. until the end. A total shift in visual landscape took us from industrial haze and harsh red colors to a stunningly beautiful world. Bubbles poured from the sky minute after minute, and it could have gone on for an hour. Remember that feeling you got at the end of Edward Scissorhands when it started to snow on Winona Rider after 2 hours of WTF? It was sort of like that. Honestly, Fluence felt like two pieces, and the two parts didn’t seem to connect. I was craving a small intimate venue in the first half, while the second was perfectly at home in the massive Harris Theater. Maybe that was the point.
After a long pause to clean up all the bubbles, resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo premiered a brand new work: Cloudless. Had I not looked at my program, I never would have guessed this was his work. This first duet for two women (beautifully danced by Jacqueline Burnett and Ana Lopez) displayed a meticulous focus toward one idea that I’ve not otherwise seen from Cerrudo. Plus, they weren’t wearing socks. Cerrudo often has so much material that his work can be overwhelming as a viewer, and the simplicity of Cloudless gave me the “in” I’ve been waiting for. Repetition, unison, and motif were exquisitely utilized, and nine lighting instruments hung low over the stage isolated the dancers and created the intimacy I was craving in Fluence. In a word, Cloudless was perfect.
Two older pieces rounded out the program: Ohad Naharin’s 1989 satirical duet Passomezzo (first performed by HSDC in 2001) and the full-length Casi-Casa from Mats Ek. I had only seen excerpts of the 2009 Casi-Casa up to now, and the 40-minute tribute to sometimes-dysfunctional domesticity is funny, weird, and totally awesome. Notable moments include the opening solo on an Ikea style lounge chair, a trio for two dancers and a smoking oven, a vacuum jig for six women, and a very satisfying series of unison passages at the end. Some might see this piece as a little kitsch, but it’s balanced with enough dark and sensual moments to prevent the gimmicks from becoming overkill. Aside from an unnecessarily long stretch of blank stage after “caution” tape is strung wing to wing, there’s nothing I didn’t like about Casi-Casa.
I remember seeing Hubbard Street perform as a young kid, and being completely blown away. It was one of those companies that I would beg to see for my birthday present. Even with hundreds and hundreds of dance shows under my belt and (let’s be honest) a sometimes cynical eye, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago still wows me.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Fall Series continues through October 13 (Friday and Saturday at 8pm, Sunday at 3pm) at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (205 E. Randolph Dr.). Single tickets are $25-99, available at hubbardstreetdance.com.