The West Loop studios housing Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) were bustling last week when I stopped by in preparation for dance(e)volve, a two-program, two-weekend set of performances showcasing in-house choreography opening tonight on the MCA Stage. Bad news up front: this weekend’s show are already SOLD OUT! Tickets are still available, but going at lightening speed, for next week’s run (Jan 26 – 29).
As a natural evolutionary step from HSDC’s Inside/Out Choreographic Workshop that is held every summer, Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton picked certain pieces from last year to be expanded, reworked and presented in the MCA’s intimate theater. Along with the HSDC and HS2 choreographers, two National Choreographic Competition winners from 2011 will show new works. HSDC company member Penny Saunders takes inspiration from Vaudeville traveling shows, while Clébio Oliveira ponders the human/animal connection. New dances from Jonathan Fredrickson, Alice Klock, Johnny McMillan, Robyn Mineko Williams, Taryn Kaschock Russell, Terence Marling as well as a duet by HSDC Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo also appear on the programs.
Williams’ and McMillan’s works are featured on Program A (Jan 19,20 & 28,29). I sat in on rehearsals for these very different pieces. Williams showed her choreographic chops by teaming up with Marling for last year’s hit Harold and the Purple Crayon. Her new work, Recall stems off the concept of memory. “I’m fascinated by how different memories work and from one scene people have a similar memory, but a different perspective.” Set to a driving beat by The Chromatics and an original score by Chris Menth (parts are reminiscent of Canadian band Men Without Hats classic song Safety Dance), the 15-minute piece combines walking in a maze-like patterns and shifts in tempo where some dancers move in slow motion. It reminded me of the inner workings of a clock, only with Williams’ smooth dance style and personality showing through. “Glenn wanted me to try something different from Inside/Out,” she says. “I walked into the studio with no ideas, no music…nothing. I worked like that for three days. It’s amazing what starts to develop in such a short time. With these dancers, they bring so much to the table that it’s much easier for the choreographer.” Williams’ piece has a techno rewind vibe, but McMillan’s new work Path and Observations takes a more earthy, grounded path. With a soundscape of Sami folkloric music (Pekka Lehti, Mari Boine), he incorporates autumnal leaves and emotional movement with moments of stillness. “The first 40 seconds of the piece are two people on stage in stillness,” McMillan (who just turned 20 on Tuesday) tell me. “It allows the audience to take in everything, to sit there and think, maybe go off in their own thoughts before they have to watch the dancing.” Promoted from apprentice to HS2 this season, he’s always been interested in choreography and created his first dance at age 16. “It was a ballet piece with 21 girls. It wasn’t very good. There were a lot of bourrés.” He’s excited to see his new work on the stage this week and is a perfect example of the creative evolution from Inside/Out to danc(e)volve.
Hubbard Street presents danc(e)volve: Jan 19-22 & 26-29
MCA Stage, 220 E. Chicago, 312.397.4010, Tickets are $35