Hubbard Street Dance Chicago started their Fall Series off with a bang last night (Thursday, October 10) at The Harris Theater in downtown Chicago. Premiering new works by choreographers, pushing the limits with fresh movement vocabulary, and bringing back an oldie but a goodie with Mats Ek's Casi Casa, the program kept the rowdy Chicago audience cheering and clapping for the whole two hour program.
Starting off with Robyn Mineko Williams' Fluence, the program lags a bit at the beginning as the pace for this piece never seems to pick up. With a sound score by Robert F. Hayes, the continuous beat of the music stays consistent throughout the whole piece, pulling the piece down. The visually exciting (and slightly distracting) finale, however, pulls the slow pace up a bit, perking the attention of those who may have slumped into their champagne, as bubbles cascade from the sky while dancers pluck at them, popping the bubbles to reveal dry ice inside, creating a floating, lusty effect on stage. While the pace is slow, Mineko Williams, a winner of this year's Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship Award, is really on to something with her signature use of twitching and scooting, mostly done in pairs. Mineko Williams' style is less leggy than perhaps the usual Hubbard Street crowd is used to, but it is oh so refreshing to see this ensemble embody this fresh movement.
Cloudless, a duet by Alejandro Cerrudo is next up on the bill and, in true Cerrudo form, does not disappoint. Cerrudo's 12th work on the company, Cloudless is set on a smaller scale than his usual stunning ensemble work. This duet, however is not devoid of Cerrudo's ability to create massive and perfectly overwhelming images on the stage using lighting to foster a vast, empty, but always romantic air. This piece too, had a slower pace but in opposition to Mineko Williams' Fluence, the slow pace in Cloudless does not drag, but actually feels a bit cozy, making the audience want to snuggle up to it a little closer. The huge chandeliers made of large stage lights hanging low onto stage create an even more intimate feel as Hubbard Street dancers Jacqueline Burnett and Ana Lopez squiggle around each other, lifting and touching in a way that suggests a painfully beautiful and romantic relationship between the two.
Third in the night is Passomezzo, an older work by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Passomezzo is weird, in a word. Quirky and silly as dancers scoot on their knees, walk in geometric patterns on stage, and even bump into each other, the piece is a little jarring as it comes right after Cerrudo's smooth and romantic Cloudless. Passomezzo is light-hearted and comical as it depicts a relationship between dancers Kellie Epperheimer and Johnny McMillan. While not my personal favorite of the evening, it still felt good to laugh a little as Naharin's charming style returned to a Chicago stage.
Finally, Mats Ek's Casi Casa finishes out the night in a perfectly polished finale of swooping ensemble work. Hubbard Street dancer (and photographer of two of the photos included in this review), Quinn B. Wharton starts off the piece in a strongly performed solo, pulling focus to the piece from the beginning. Performed by Hubbard Street back in December, 2012, Casi Casa is stronger this time around, perhaps more animated and more fully embodied by the performers. Bright jewel toned costumes hold attention as they twirl and flip around within this world created by Mats Ek. Casi Casa is an artist's take on the ins and outs of everyday life as they boil to frustration and this go-round, Hubbard Street gets it just right.
Hubbard Street performs the Fall Series at The Harris Theater again tonight, October 11 and Saturday and Sunday, October 12 and 13 at 8 pm (Friday and Saturday), and 3 pm (Sunday). Tickets can be purchased at hubbardstreetdance.com.