Hubbard Street Dance
Choreographed by Alonzo King
Spring is in the air with this exquisite company collaboration
Review by Lauren Whalen
Every dance tells a story. Even the most abstract pieces contain a clear beginning, middle and end, and like the most finely-drawn characters, neither dancer nor audience is quite the same at the end. And there are no accidents: moments that seem wonderfully spontaneous have hours of sweat, and planning behind them. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is a team of master storytellers and, paired with Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Chicago’s strongest modern dance ensemble is successful in their quest for the perfect ending. Not every story ends happily, but everything ends in a way that’s honest and beautiful.
Based in San Francisco, LINES Ballet was co-founded by Artistic Director Alonzo King. His choreography is cerebral and philosophical, emphasizing thoughts and energies, and what happens when everything collides and finally comes together. This isn’t the kind of ballet one would see at ABT or Joffrey: no toe shoes, tutus or Tchaikovsky. King’s dancers are tight machines with loose-limbed grace, executing frenetic movement with boundless energy.
Rasa, the evening’s first piece, is a testament to LINES’ endurance. The company’s aptly named: LINES dancers have long legs, lithe muscles and endless extensions. Zakir Hussain’s score, a personal interpretation of classical Indian percussion, is rhythmically complex and challenging, and King’s choreography has a primal intelligence. Clad in the barest of neutral fabrics, the ensemble moves with the kind of precision so brilliant it appears improvised. Though Rasa is a bit long, it’s a celebration of consistent innovation and endless vigor.
Hubbard Street takes the stage next in Little mortal jump. The piece’s production design is a quirky character in itself, thanks to the black and gray color story of Alejandro Cerrudo’s sets and Branimira Ivanova’s costumes, and Michael Korsch’s warm and emotional lighting. As always, Hubbard Street dancers aren’t afraid to have fun: the boyish Kevin Shannon starts the dance with a lively bang, Jonathan Fredrickson and Jessica Tong are lightfooted through a sweet pas de deux and Garrett Patrick Anderson and Jacqueline Burnett brings a picturesque weight. Cerrudo is a master of seamlessly blending the old-fashioned and the modern, the epic and the intimate, the fanciful and the philosophical. Little mortal jump is a glimpse into the mind of a creative virtuoso, and the hilarity, romance and longing within all of us.
Both companies come together for AZIMUTH, a world premiere commissioned by the Harris Theater (in honor of its 10th anniversary) and by the University of California. According to the program, an azimuth is “one of three coordinates identifying a point on a sphere, relative to its center . . . artistically, azimuth is the distance between where you are (axis mundi) and where you are headed (aspiration, goal) erased by absorption”. A lofty concept, but in choreographer Alonzo King’s capable hands, it’s a revelation. It’s interesting to see LINES and Hubbard Street on the same stage: the former are free with their movements, the latter are more controlled. The styles nicely complement one another, and there’s a lovely sense of artistic support at play. Hubbard Street takes to King’s steps like ducks to water: Kellie Epperheimer showcases exquisite plies and Burnett asserts a stellar presence: when she’s onstage, you know and you watch. During the final movement, LINES’ Meredith Webster and David Harvey display striking lifts that require the ultimate trust.
Bringing together two companies separated by two distinct styles and two thousand miles, is far from easy. Ditto creating and performing steps and patterns that are frenetic without being messy, and balancing giggly whimsy and deep intelligence. Hubbard Street’s Spring Series goes above and beyond the challenges that would make a lesser company squirm. The sterling company collaboration, coupled with King and Cerrudo’s radiant choreography, results in a wild energy that can’t be contained, and three epic stories for the ages.
Hubbard Street Dance Spring Series continues through March 17th at Harris Theater at Millennium Park, 205 E. Randolph (map), with performances Thursday 7:30pm, Friday/Saturday at 8pm, Sunday 3pm. Tickets are $25-$99, and are available by phone (312-850-9744) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at HubbardStreetDance.com. (Running time: 2 hours 20 minutes, includes two intermissions)
Photos by Margo Moritz
Casts for individual pieces vary by performance. “Rasa” is danced by LINES Ballet, “Little mortal jump” is danced by Hubbard Street and both companies dance “AZIMUTH”.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago:
Garrett Patrick Anderson, Jesse Bechard, Jacqueline Burnett, Alejandro Cerrudo, Meredith Dincolo, Kellie Epperheimer, Jonathan Fredrickson, Jason Hortin, Alice Klock, Ana Lopez, Johnny McMillan, Laura O’Malley, Pablo Piantino, Penny Saunders, David Schultz, Kevin J. Shannon, Jessica Tong, Quinn B. Wharton (dancer bios here)
Alonzo King LINES Ballet:
David Harvey, Courtney Henry, Ashley Jackson, Yujin Kim, Paul Knobloch, Michael Montgomery, Caroline Rocher, Zachary Tang, Meredith Webster, Keelan Whitmore, Kara Wilkes, Ricardo Zayas (dancer bios here)
behind the scenes
For Hubbard Street Dance Chicago:
Glenn Edgerton (artistic director), Jason Palmquist (executive director), Lou Conte (founder), Taryn Kaschock Russell (director, HS2), Terence Marling (rehearsal director), Kristen Brogdon (general manager), Alejandro Cerrudo (resident choreographer), Claire Bataille (director, Lou Conte Dance Studio), Ishanee DeVas (company manager), Matt Miller (lighting, tech director, interim production manager), Rebecca Shouse (wardrobe supervisor), Penny Saunders (rehearsal assistant), Kilroy G. Kundalini (audio engineer), Aprill C. Clements (stage manager, props master), Stephen Panek (head carpenter), Sam Begich (master electrician)
For Alonzo King LINES Ballet:
Alonzo King (founder/artistic director), Robert Rosenwasser (founder/creative director), Janette Gitler (executive director), Arturo Fernandez (ballet master), Nancy Bertossa (marketing), Sheri Kuehl (development), Michelle Miulli (company manager)
For “Little mortal jump”:
Alonzo King (choreography), Ben Juodvalkis (original music), Axel Morgenthaler (lighting), Robert Rosenwasser (costumes), Joan Raymond, Rebecca M. Shouse (costume construction), Jim Doyle (visual effects), Arturo Fernandez, Terence Marling (assistants to the choreographer)