The past few weeks have been pretty good for Johnny McMillan. In late April, he was promoted from HS2, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s (HSDC) second company, to the main company. He was immediately cast in William Forsythe’s Quintett (a big fucking deal), which he danced with veteran company members in the Summer Series at the Harris Theater earlier this month. In addition to Forsythe, he performed a tiny part in resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s Malditos – “I was a cross-over girl.” – and sections of the group work by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin THREE TO MAX. He’s now setting a new work for HSDC’s in-house choreographic workshop Inside/Out, which will be the third piece he’s made since joining HS2 in 2010. Did I mention he’s only 20?
That’s a lot to absorb for his petite 5’6″ frame, but he’s enjoying every minute. “I wasn’t really nervous for Malditos at first, because I was just going on stage and doing three counts of eight,” he said last week from HSDC’s West Loop studio. “But the first night, I run out on stage, slide, and my whole body goes ‘oh no, there are people here’. That’s when it hit me. I’m dancing with the main company. Everything I’ve wanted in dance is happening.” That he got to dance a Forsythe piece in his first show is a testament to his talent and maturity. Dancing alongside Ana Lopez, Alejandro Cerrudo, Jacqueline Burnett and Jesse Bechard, McMillan fit right in. “It was a surreal experience,” he said. “The nice thing about starting with Forsythe was…it wasn’t directed at the audience. From the moment you’re on stage, you don’t have time to think about anything but the people you’re dancing with and what you’re doing. That was nice. It was just being on stage for 25 minutes and having a blast. That’s the most fun I’ve ever had with a piece.”
Hitting the ground running, so to speak, he’s already learning tons of rep like Twyla Tharp’s speedy marathon Scarlatti and Sharon Eyal’s brain-twister Too Beacoup, while also rehearsing the three works he’ll perform at Inside/Out, as well as setting a solo on HSDC dancer Penny Saunders set to “Goin’ Out of My Head” by Little Anthony and the Imperials. “It’s really groovy. We were in Kansas (on tour) in the airport and I heard this song. I was outside smoking a cigarette and it was on and – shazam! – this is it”, McMillan said. “I’m really liking the solo and everything Penny is doing with it. He’s taking a new approach with this piece, working more with improv than strict, set steps and patterns. Inspired by memories of entertaining his parent as a child and watching videos of HS2 artistic director Taryn Kaschock Russell’s son Donovan, McMillan found his groove. “Kids have this carelessness. It’s always about the music. I really want to play with this lack of counts and just hearing and feeling the music…not even choreographing to the music, but the way it makes you feel.”
McMillan’s work premieres this weekend along with 17 new works from HSDC dancers and artistic staff in the intimate UIC Theater. Tickets are still available, but going quickly. The thing I find most intriguing about Inside/Out and new works programs (there are a ton in Chicago) is that when the tables are turned and the dancers have the opportunity to create the movement, you really get a glimpse at who they are as people, not just as performers. Don’t miss this chance to see you favorite HSDC-ers in a new light.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents Inside/Out at the UIC Theater, 1044 W. Harrison St, Saturday, June 23 at 5 & 8 pm. Tickets are $20 ($35 for VIP, $15 for students). Call 312.850.9744 or visit www.hubbardstreet.com.