Meet Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Cyrie Topete

November 15, 2022

Cyrie Topete barely had time to move her tassel from right to left at her Juilliard graduation before bursting onto the professional scene. In July, the 2022 grad appeared in a dance film by Justin Peck for the running brand On. A month later, she was performing at Jacob’s­ Pillow as one of six new dancers in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. There, her dynamic style and unparalleled versatility were on full display in two contrasting works: the darkly comedic­ BUSK, by Aszure Barton, and As the Wind Blows, a softer, subtler, more sensitive work, by Amy Hall Garner.

Company: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Age: 22

Hometown: Peoria, Arizona

Training: Dance Connection Scottsdale, The Juilliard School

Accolades: Juilliard’s FENDI Vanguard Award (2021), YoungArts awardee (2018)

Full circle: Topete started dancing at age 13 and quickly found success on the competition scene. But it was watching Hubbard Street as a teen that affirmed her future path. “I was a changed person after their performance,” she says. “My soul felt so incredibly well-fed. Ever since then, I’ve been wanting people to feel that way when I’m onstage.”

Competition dance takeaways: “I was exposed to so many styles and was able to learn about myself more every day,” Topete says, crediting competition dance for her versatility, motivation and positivity. “The glamour and gloss of competition gets a bad reputation, but if I gave in to the toxicity of competing, I would be a completely different person. I spent more time and energy on the opportunities it gave me versus the results.”

Getting noticed on Zoom: After auditioning for Hubbard Street virtually last spring, Topete was invited to a three-day callback in Chicago in May. “ ‘Gutsy’ is not the word,” says artistic director Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell of Topete’s dancing. “She has something to say, and she’s not afraid to say it.” Topete notes that attending Juilliard during the pandemic was a blessing in disguise—and ideal preparation for the professional world. “It was extremely hard to wake up every day knowing my destination would be my living room,” she says, “but it created a lot of comfort in my own skin. If I didn’t have that preparation of educational Zoom, I wouldn’t have been able to find comfortability with myself on a screen.”

What her director is saying: The in-person tryout confirmed Fisher-Harrell’s hunch that Topete would be a perfect match for Hubbard Street. “There’s an animalistic fierceness to her. It surpasses technique,” she says. “She’s a natural, dynamic leader.”

Adjusting to the Windy City: Topete spent just three weeks in her new city before heading out on tour, but Chicago already feels like home. “I’m surprised how fast I was able to settle in and feel cozy,” she says. “I love how many walks of life I see—and the food is incredible.”