Robyn Mineko Williams. Photo by Cheryl Mann.
This weekend Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) presents its Summer Series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (May 31-June 3). The three-piece program concludes another stellar season for the group and sets the bar high for next season, their 35th. Another conclusion this weekend is the tenure with the company of dancer Robyn Mineko Williams. The matinee on Sunday, June 3rd will be her last Chicago performance with HSDC. (She will dance with them this summer at the American Dance Festival – June 29-30 and on tour in Aspen, CO. – July 6-7.) The three-piece, mixed program includes HSDC Resident Choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s cross-company collaboration with Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) Malditos, the U.S. premiere of William Forsythe‘s lush, emotional Quintett and Ohad Naharin‘s choreographic mash-up THREE TO MAX. Williams, always a stand out in Naharin’s works, will dance this final piece for her HSDC finale. “She’s done a lot of Ohad’s work. It’s kind of her forte,” says HSDC Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton. “Robyn is a fantastic force of nature in everything she does. I might start crying…I love her. She’s a special lady.” The feeling is mutual. Williams tears up multiple times talking about leaving Edgerton and the dancers she adores. Anyone witnessing her dance feels like they know her. She’s a friend, a sister, a lover. She dances with open, honest, heartfelt grace. Her eyes sparkle with a sly, wickedness that intrigues, making you want to know all her secrets.
On this Memorial Day, along with celebrating those who serve our country and those who have sacrificed their lives serving, RB gives tribute to Williams who has danced in the Chicago-area her entire life, first in Lombard, as a scholarship student at Lou Conte Dance Studio, for four years with River North Dance Chicago and as a HSDC company member since 2000. “I’ve been here forever,” she says from the company’s West Loop studios. “This was my 12th season. It’s been awesome. When you’re dancing with the company so full-time, it’s all-encompassing. I feel like I’m ready to take on new challenges.” When asked what she’s going to to next, before answering, she shrugs and giggles. “I know I want to stay in the dance realm and I want to keep choreographing. I’d love to perform still, just at a different intensity level.” Her choreography will keep her connected to HSDC. HS2 continues to perform Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure, which she co-created with HSDC Rehearsal Director Terry Marling, and they may be adding Recall, her piece from last season’s danc(e)volve to their rep.
RB sat down with Williams early one morning before company class.
What was the reaction when you told everyone?
Oh…(tears), I’m choked up just thinking about leaving the people. Every week Glenn asks if I”m sure this is really what I want to do, so I have to be strong in my decision. I adore him so much. These small opportunities I’ve had over the last few years with “Harold'”, danc(e)volve and the Art Institute, I’ve realized that I love the challenges of making new things and collaborating with different artists in different mediums. That’s something I’d love to be able to do more of. It’s difficult when you’re in a company.
Are there artists you’d like to work with?
Aszure (Barton). I’d love to work with her again. I’ve gone to a couple of auditions…trying to put my feelers out. It’s such a shockingly different world for me. It’s such a different way of thinking. I still love dance and I’m not ready to leave it. I’m ready to see what else is out there and work on collaborations. I feel like I’m being a little naive and risky taking this leap, but one day it all focused in for me and I thought “this is right”. I’m open to change. I’m hoping something comes my way.
You know, they’re auditioning for Disney princesses down the hall today.
Hmm…maybe I should break out my 16 bars.
What were some of your favorite pieces at HSDC?
“Minus 16”, because I grew up with that piece. It’s the piece that’s in me the most – that I know the most. I got to do it with so many different people.
Did Ohad come set it on you?
Yes, that’s why it has a special place. Ohad and Mari (Kajiwara) came. They were here for about a month and it was this intense workshop process. It was the first big thing I did with the company. It was really a game-changer for me.
I loved doing “Passomezzo” (Naharin). I felt like that was a chance that was given to me to hold some ground. “Walking Mad” (Johan Inger), “Gimme” (Lucas Crandall), “Lickety-Split” (Cerrudo). These pieces are some of the pieces where I felt like someone was giving me a chance. Jorma Elo (“From All Sides”, “Bitter Suite”), he really played a pivotal role for me in the way I approached movement. His words, though sometimes few are very softly spoken, resonated strongly and allowed me to perceive and explore in ways I never had before. Super cool experience.
Can you tell me a little something about each of the directors you’ve worked with at HSDC? Something they taught you…
Lou (Conte)…I worked with him, technically, for like a month, but I grew up with him. He taught me to be strong. You have to have a certain level of confidence in yourself to be successful. Jim (Vincent), in a similar vein, had the ability to make your attributes work for you, especially in your frame of dance. Take advantage of what you have and explore those qualities, because that’s what makes you special. Glenn…I’m not crying…he’s taught me so much. He instilled such trust…(crying)…
So, your last show…
Chicago, then ADF and Aspen. I think Aspen will be my last show. My Mom will be there. They’re doing “Harold”, so the second company will be there. I’m excited about the Chicago show. I have the opportunity to go out doing something I’m proud of and that represents what I do. I’m excited. I hope I don’t get too crazy and fall off the stage.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Summer Series, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph Dr., Thursday, May 31 – Sunday, June 3. Tickets are $25-$94. Call 312.850.9744 or visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com.