Hubbard Street Does It Again

Hubbard Street dancer Meredith Dincolo in "Fluence". Photo by Quinn B Wharton.

I realize it’s redundant for me to exclaim how spectacular Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is, but…well, they are. Last night’s opening night performance of the Fall Series at the Harris Theater was standard in its phenomenal performers and thoroughly entertaining choreography, but with a few surprises. Works from master choreographers Mats Ek and Ohad Naharin, plus a new work from Princess Grace Award winner (and former Hubbard Street dancer) Robyn Mineko Williams and a world premiere duet by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo showcased the company’s talents from top to bottom.

The first surprise was the emergence of Williams as a thoughtful choreographer that can hold her own with the best of them. Not a shock since we’ve seen her work before, but Fluence was the first time she and her handpicked creative team put it all on stage in a longer, cohesive piece. Quirky chaotic moves turn into a slow duet. A group twitches alongside a lone dancer in his own world.? And then came the bubbles. Yes, bubbles. The delicate spheres came raining down creating a serene, space-like atmosphere. A sole column filled with smoke disintegrated in a puff above dancer Meredith Dincolo, whose solo ended the work with a horizontal disjointed backstroke.

Hubbard Street never lacks for stunning duets in their works, but Surprise #2 is, this time, the couples are female. Emilie Leriche and Alice Klock connect effortlessly in Fluence and Ana Lopez and Jacqueline Burnett in Cerrudo’s Cloudless proved a perfect pairing for his intimate choreography. Cerrudo’s newest work, his 12th for the company, features a dark (obviously) stage, stripped bare with two industrial chandeliers highlighting the dancers. Although we may have seen some of his deft duet designs before, they look completely different (dare I say, even more intimate) set on two women.

The rest of the performance was – no surprises here – stellar dancing of audience favorites Passomezzo (Naharin) and Casi-Casa (Ek). Naharin’s romantic, human duet was at times rough, sweet, funny and endearing with some really difficult, knee-killing dancing by Kellie Epperheimer and Johnny McMillan. The company danced Ek’s work for the first time last season and they have really settled into the piece. Comfortable and at ease, they breezed through the extreme choreography with style and aplomb. Here, the men shined. Quinn B (“Legs”) Wharton opened with a smart, sassy take on the “TV Man” solo and the trio of McMillan, David Schultz and Jesse Bechard gets better and more poignant with each viewing.

Shout out to costume designer Hogan McLaughlin for his futuristic take on leotards in Fluence and a hearty BRAVO to lighting and tech director Matt Miller.

Hubbard Street’s Fall Series runs through Sunday, Oct. 13 at the Harris Theater. Tickets are $25-$99; call 312.850.9744 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com.

 

Hubbard Street Premieres Fluence (preview)

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Robyn Mineko Williams' "Fluence". Photo by Quinn B Wharton.

This Thursday,?Hubbard Street Dance Chicago?presents its Fall Series at the Harris Theater. Opening this Thursday and running through Sunday, the program features two returning works from master choreographers Mats Ek and Ohad Naharin, plus the world premiere of Alejandro Cerrudo’s?Cloudless and the Chicago premiere of Robyn Mineko Williams’ new work Fluence, which premiered last month in Minneapolis, MN.

Williams received the news in August that she is the recent recipient of the 2013-2014 Princess Grace Choreography Fellowship Award. “It’s bonkers,” she said. “I’m still shocked about it, but I’m really excited.” The grant money that goes with the award went to fund this new work for nine dancers. As a former Hubbard Street dancer, she knows the dancers well and set to work putting together a creative team. Robert (Robbie) F. Haynes composed an original score, Burke Brown provided his expertise in lighting and fashion designer Hogan McLaughlin created intricate costumes. “My creative team has been so awesome,” said Williams. “They’re all so open to anything I have to say and they’re geniuses on their own. They’re cool, laid back people. I think that’s why I stayed so calm throughout the process.”

According to Williams, the definition of fluence “is a stream of particles crossing a unit area, usually express as the number of particles per second”. Another definition references magical/mystical influence. “I thought both were apropos for the work,” she said. She was inspired by the ideas of individualism and solitude and the creative team took off from that. “We’re still learning how we collaborate,” said Williams. “We’re kind of going from our guts. It’s instinctual.”

The fact that her work is being presented along with choreographers like Ek and Naharin, not to mention her colleague Cerrudo, could make a girl nervous, but she is only grateful. “It’s cool. I feel really lucky to have this opportunity. If I’m doing anything, I’m just trying to be myself.”

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Fall Series at the Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph St., Thursday-Sunday, Oct 10-13. Performance times vary. Tickets are $25-$99; call 312.850.9744 or visit hubbardstreetdance.com/fall.

 

Tapping Away the Winter Blues

Tapper/Choreographer Michelle Dorrance. Photo by Matthew Murphy & Kenn Tam.

This weekend, Feb. 8-10, shake, hop and shuffle off your winter blues by attending the Winter Tap JAMboree! presented by the Chicago Human Rhythm Project (CHRP). Located at the American Rhythm Center (ARC) in the historic Fine Arts Building on Michigan Ave., the three-day fest features some of the best tappers around including CHRP Director Lane Alexander, Nico Rubio, Bril Barrett, STOMP performer Lisa La Touche and Michelle Dorrance, winner of a 2012 Princess Grace Award (the first tap choreographer to ever win!). Master classes in tap will be offered, plus classes in hip hop, break dancing, fitness and tai chi, plus an open forum discussion about the future of American tap dance. General registration $15. Master classes $17.50/per class. Also, on Saturday, Feb. 9 from 7-9 pm, there will be auditions for tap scholarships for dancers ages 12 – 18 to CHRP’s Rhythm World tap festival this summer, July 22 – Aug. 4. Ten $1000 scholarships will be awarded. Registration fee is $15. For more information, visit chicagotap.org.

While Dorrance is in town for the JAMboree!, she’s also working with CHRP group BAM! setting a new work to be premiered on April 4th at the Auditorium Theatre‘s Music + Movement Festival. The new five-month-long festival – just announced yesterday – features Chicago dance companies paired with live musicians for original performances commission by the theater. BAM! will perform in the Katten/Landau Studio (435 S. Wabash, 4th floor). Tickets are $10.

I sat in on rehearsals this morning while Dorrance finished piecing together the first section set to a remixed version of Etta James’ St. Louis Blues for five dancers. Fast is an understatement for the rapid-fire rhythms coming off their feet. Dorrance, 33, tosses out commentary with a humorous tone (this really mattered to me last night; did I lie to you?; this shit…let’s clean it up while we’re here) and advice (trust it and try it; stay in pli?, it will save your life; surprise yourself with the first over-the-top) while going over choreographic notes and layering in bits of character to the complicated syncopated steps. Familiar names like wings and Charleston are interspersed with audible rhythmic cues like shig-a-dig-a and go-go-go-go GA-GA! The first section is short, but jam-packed with steps, which leads Dorrance to apologize, sort of, for adding in old-school trenches (switching legs back in a flat back, reaching to the floor with the opposite hands, while sliding back on the outside of one foot) at the very end. “Sorry to end this so tiring…hmph!” But, she doesn’t change it.