Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

September 30, 2010

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
The Harris Theatre

Chicago, IL

September 30–October 3, 2010

Reviewed by Lynn Colburn Shapiro


Jessica Tong in Quijada’s
Physikal Linguistiks. Photo by Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy HSDC.


Hubbard Street’s season opener was a little like snacking on Cracker Jacks, the sweet, tasty crunch whetting the appetite but never entirely satisfying hunger. Each of the four pieces, however, rewarded audience patience with an unexpected turn—the surprise inside—that gave us something more substantial to ponder.

Nacho Duato’s Arcangelo (2000), a lyrical set of duets for four couples, uses classically inspired forms to pay homage to the music of Corelli and Scarlatti. Duato’s meld of music and movement is exquisite, but its syrupy pace gives the piece a sameness that begs for something else to happen. When, finally, it does, how breathtaking! A billowing curtain descends mid-stage over Penny Saunders and Jesse Bechard, obscuring them at the culmination of their duet. Various appendages appear and disappear, evoking a multi-armed, multi-legged organism that re-births Saunders, downstage of the drape, with Bechard hidden behind it. She floats into the air, seemingly unaided, until her hidden partner reappears. The drape ascends, carrying them heavenward to the celestial strains of a Scarlatti aria—and inspiring an audible gasp in the audience.

Greater integration of abstract movement and narrative themes would have strengthened Victor Quijada’s premiere, Physikal Linguistiks. On a bare stage, eight dancers in black, white, and grey fatigues, manipulate Christian Broomhall in an intriguing push-pull of weight on tangent points of knee, elbow, wrist, shoulder, head. The action/reaction of touch and rebound between the group and the individual suggests they are molding him—this is the way we want your head, your arms, your legs, this is who we need you to be. His street-wise body eventually conforms into something balletic, but why? Later in the piece, when the dancers revisit this pattern, only without direct touch, we expect an answer that never comes.

Quijada breaks the “fourth wall” with several comic scenes. One of these spills into the audience for a delicious moment when an “usher” gets caught up in the action. (It soon becomes clear that she’s not an usher but a ringer from the company.) Blurring the line between stage and house, performance and real life, promised an exciting theatrical concept. But it fizzled into cliché and never connected to the work’s larger structure.

Back onstage, Jason Hortin punctuated his solo with verbal directive to the stage manager, as if in rehearsal, but the conceit went on too long before it segued into his duet with Saunders. And while Hortin handled his speaking/dancing role with panache, his monologue during the duet had no connection to what came next. One wishes to see these wonderful surprises more fully woven into a thematic whole.

Alejandro Cerruda, HSDC’s resident choreographer, contributed two recent works. Blanco (2010), for four women, is an intense, abstract dance about light and darkness, appearance and disappearance. Deep Down Dos (2010) suggests the human rat race in a metropolis where the men, in business jackets but bare chests, look like Wall Street refugees, while the women, in tunics over bike shorts, have just come from the gym. All were possessed by the need to get where they were going at all cost, though how they belonged together was anyone’s guess.