Isaac Spencer in Nacho Duato’s Gnawa
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Joyce Theater, New York, NY
August 8–20, 2005
Reviewed By Karyn D. Collins
It’s not easy being a chameleon. For a top repertory company, three components are essential: a repertoire that fits the abilities and look of the company, careful attention to the integrity of each work, and dancers who are willing and able to adapt themselves to any style.
Hubbard Street Dance is that rarity, a company that does all three to the highest degree. Since its founding in 1977, it has consistently defied description. It’s a jazz company. No, it’s a modern company. No, it’s a contemporary company. But titles don’t matter. The fact is, Hubbard Street doesn’t fit into one category. It’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that. More important, the little bits of this and that are all done to perfection.
In two programs chock-a-block with premieres, the company brought several works made especially for it. And it was interesting to see what different choreographers brought out in these dancers.
The world premiere, artistic director Jim Vincent’s Uniformity, was as much a wry statement on interpersonal dynamics as it was about the versatility of the company. To some degree there was a story to the outfits: corporate suits in the first section, parochial school uniforms for the second, and retro ’70s casual for the third. But this was really about relationships—the briefcase boys fighting for a seat of power that ultimately belongs to a woman; the schoolyard skirmishes, from mind-games to kick-butt battles; and the party crowd, kissing and dissing, showing that it is indeed possible to be lonely even in a crowd.
Movement-wise, Vincent employs a propulsive fusion of moves—hip hop pops, jazz moves pushed backward and off the axis, and hardscrabble twists and turns in keeping with the urban battle-zone scenarios he creates.
A New York premiere, Gnawa, Nacho Duato’s first work for the company, explored a different side of Hubbard Street. Gnawa takes us into the midst of tribal rituals, centered around a couple who celebrate and revel in the elements of water, earth, and fire. The community around this couple moves through a series of formations, the repetitions building with an intensity to match the swirl of music around them. At times they seem propelled by the music; at others they are the music. It is a hypnotic whirl that draws us into his almost religious experience of movement and music. See www.hubbardstreetdance.com.