Kyle Abraham’s ‘Counterpoint’ set to premiere at Chicago Dancing Festival

It’s been a fruitful summer for dance in Chicago – and I’m not just talking about PRODUCE.

Tonight, Dance for Life will see two world premiere performances choreographed by Randy Duncan and Harrison McEldowney & Jeremy Plummer, and next week continues the trend. The Chicago Dancing Festival is bringing three world premieres to the bountiful table of summer dance in Chicago, after the wildly successful commission of Alexander Ekman’s Episode 31 last season. One of the three premieres is the highly anticipated Counterpoint, a new work set on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) by 2013 MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” recipient Kyle Abraham.

The process was fast, and according to Abraham, highly collaborative with the HSDC dancers, who are divided into multiple gender-blind casts. After finishing a rough draft of the piece in May, he returned to Chicago a couple weeks ago to finish preparations for the world premiere Wednesday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. With multiple on-going projects across the country, the wonderboy Abraham has enough pans in the fire to drive even the most level-headed person batty. In spite (or perhaps because?) of this, Counterpoint shows a refreshing level of restraint and commitment to motif. Abraham’s steady and delicate hand for subtle gesture and dry specks of humor intersperse highly technical, highly stylized dancing that few outside of HSDC are capable of.

Hubbard Street Dancers in rehearsal with Kyle Abraham, center | photo by Todd Rosenberg
Hubbard Street Dancers in rehearsal with Kyle Abraham, center | photo by Todd Rosenberg

Counterpoint is a testament to the rigid starts and stops – the abrupt changes that have occurred throughout Abraham’s life. Its score is a dichotomatic mix of electronica spliced into a classical score by Brahms. The Brahms was a late addition (after the untimely death of DJ Rashad, an intended collaborator on the project), but ultimately fitting as it provides allegorical context to the nonchalant balletic phrases unfolding in mismatched pairings of seven dancers throughout the 20+ minutes.

Counterpoint is joined by performances from The Juilliard School, Martha Graham Dance Company, Stars of American Ballet and The Joffrey Ballet for Classics and Creations, a smart mixture of new and old works. The performance at the Harris Theater will be simulcast to the lawn of Pritzker Pavilion, so you can still see it even if you didn’t happen to get in on the ticket release.

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The Chicago Dancing Festival kicks off Wednesday, August 20 with Classics and Creations at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (205 E. Randolph St.). Visit the Chicago Dancing Festival website for more information.

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