Seven members of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) took a corner of the Harris Theater stage with select members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) for the MusicNOW series last night where HSDC Artistic Associate Terry Marling premiered his work to a score written by CSO Mead Composer-in-Residence Anna Clyne. Clyne, along with her fellow Composer-in-Residence, Mason Bates (cute!) hosted the evening that featured four other musical works by Julia Wolfe, Anthony Cheung, Aaron Jay Kernis, Lee Hyla. Each work was previewed with a video clip of the composer discussing their process as well as an appearance on stage to answer a question or two from the hosts. Cellist Kenneth Olsen played brilliantly in four of the five pieces and the petite Cynthia Yeh grabbed my focus with her huge sounds on percussion. Aside from a three-year stint playing the alto sax, my musical knowledge is fairly limited (music is my brother’s milieu), so I will leave that to the experts and focus on the dance.
With general admission seating it’s always a gamble, but I lucked out and grabbed a great seat down front (not too close) and center. When the crew rearranged the stage for the final piece, I realized the dancing would be happening on the stage left side and my vision was compromised, unfortunately, by a man with an ENORMOUS head. Undeterred, I wiggled around and leaned on my friend until I could see the dance space clearly, although at an angle. With no wings, the black stage walls provided a moody backdrop for the dancers wearing all white. A door on the back wall with bright light shining in served as the entrance (and numerous exits) for the dancers. In twice (once), Marling worked with the limited stage space by placing most of the dance on an angle coming from the open door. The dancers worked off of that angle, replacing each other, entering/exiting through the door, disappearing into the stage left blackness to Clyne’s achingly beautiful score. He successfully created a feeling of infinity, particularly in a moment where Kellie Epperheimer walked slowly forward on the angle while the other six dancers ran in a moving circle around her. Another breathtaking moment was with Ana Lopez (always brilliant, her solo work mesmerizing) where Jesse Bechard and David Schultz, who replaced an injured Pablo Piantino, held her feet to the ground while she swayed and arched back like a willow in the wind (pictured above). The sheer tulle skirts on the women added to the elegiac theme of the music (Clyne wrote it immediately after her mother’s death) and the somber, slow exit out of the door into the light by the dancers extended past the final note, again bringing to mind infinity and beyond. I’m looking forward to seeing Marling’s choreography reconfigured for the Danc(e)vole performances at the MCA Stage in January. His keen sense of weight shifts and musical timing shine on the HSDC dancers.