Category: Millennium Park
Spiraling into Summer
|Hubbard Street Dance presents|
|at Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, Millennium Park (map)
through May 22 | tickets: $25-$94 | more info
Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has returned to Randolph Street to showcase its Summer Series, a three-piece program that – if not as warm as the season it ushers in – generously records the latest passions in the world of dance as accurately as a seismograph.
The start of a bold, new collaboration, the most significant event was the company premiere of the evening’s second offering–the hauntingly named Following the Subtle Current Upstream. The 2000 creation of Alonzo King (originally commissioned by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater), artistic director of the ground-breaking, San Francisco-based LINES Ballet, this free-wheeling experiment in motion has the ensemble, clad in monochromatic leotards, languorously or frenetically erupting to a score by Indian tabla composer Zakir Hussbain, South African balladeer Miriam Makeba and composer Miguel Frasconi.
Presumably depicting “the subtle currents that exist in the body as the path of liberation,” this fluid, sometimes seemingly improvised, choreography reflects King’s interest in grounding movement in the moment, with shifting combinations of dancers flowing in and ebbing out of formation, much like the thunder that interrupts the shape shifting. The Hubbard Dancers seem entirely at home in this inventive and self-fulfilling enterprise.
The remaining works are back by popular demand, opening with Aszure Barton’s Untouched, a maroon-hued creation performed against an elegant, half-opened curtain. Sensuous with sudden, gyrating hip swings and outstretched hands and performed to music by Njo Kong Kie, Curtis Macdonald and Ljova, Untouched was set in motion before the music was selected–so, unusual for dance, the latter is servant to the former. The result is a series of mysterious processions, comings and goings, separated by curious offstage wolf whistles, that managed to be sensuous and haunting. Hypnotic stuff, Untouched hardly describes its effect on the audience.
Finally, Jiri Kylian’s 27’52”, named for its near half-hour length, opens as a company warm-up, with a huge bank of lights dangling over the dancers. The dancers are then seen to perform on a tear-away white floor that will later give way to a tear-away black one. Like scenes from a David Lynch film, the diverse action unspools with a spoken text in English, German and French extolling the artist’s vocation. The score by Dirk Haubrich was backdrop to quirky movements, descending and ascending curtains, and jerky aerobic exercises that seemed to create a waking dream. Perhaps a bit too abstract to engage us beyond its eclectic activities, nonetheless this dance game of alternating intimate encounters followed by solo exits seems as much a metaphor for life itself as dance deserves.
All photos by Todd Rosenberg Photography ©2010
A stark stage filled with robust emotion
|Chicago Opera Theater presents|
|Music by Robert Schuman and Leos Janáček
at Harris Theater, Millennium Park (map)
through May 8 | tickets: $25-$75 | more info
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
|Frauenliebe und Leben||The Diary of One Who Disappeared|
|by Robert Schuman||by Leos Janáček|
Reviewed by Katy Walsh
She loves him. He loves her. A woman and man express the spectrum of emotions for loving the wrong person. Chicago Opera Theater concludes its 2011 Spring Season with HE/SHE, a operatic tribute to obsessive love. Deviating from a traditional show, Chicago Opera Theater presents a concert experience. In the first half, a mezzo-soprano sings in German Frauenliebe und Leben by Robert Schumann. Following the intermission, a tenor sings in Czech The Diary of One Who Disappeared by Leos Janáček. The combination proves an intriguing and entertaining gender sing-off. It’s not just another he-sang/she-sang side of the same story. The pieces are totally separate but connected through the misery of mutual unrequited love. HE/SHE passionately sings his/her heart out for the love of her/him.
After the stunning spectacles of Death and the Powers (our review ★★★) and Medea (review ★★★★); the simplicity of the HE/SHE set-up startles initially: a piano; he or she. There is no elaborate scenery, costumes or chorus. The orchestra pit is empty. It has a no-thrills send-off feel. When the music starts, the stark stage fills up with robust emotion. Jennifer Johnson Cano sings exquisitely the story of her man. Cano shares the relational joys and pain with a controlled ‘this must be a dream’ desperation. Cano poignantly sings about ‘staring into an empty world.‘ Her sadness permeates the audience with lingering despair. It’s a powerful contrast to Joseph Kaiser. Kaiser commandingly sings with a fury of intensity. An animated Kaiser thunders about the bewitching powers of a gypsy. His emotional rant engages through to a climatic finale. Brandy Lynn Hawkins (gypsy) and the off-stage voices of Lelia Bowie, Hannah Dixon and Megan Rose Williams aid the storytelling with sweet, haunting melodies.
For both segments, the back of the stage turns into a full-length movie screen. Traditionally, supertitles are projected in snippets above the stage. For HE/SHE, the supertitles become illustrations of the emotion. For Frauenliebe und Leben, the supertitles are romantic, handwritten script. They gradually appear and disappear in a montage of old fashion photographs. The black and white photos beautifully chronicle a woman’s life from childhood to marriage to death. The Diary of One Who Disappeared uses a chaotic, bold font. The words are spliced onto lush, vibrant images of nature. Within the abstract artistry, a ghostly woman sporadically appears. Projection designer Hillary Leben effectively gives the audience snapshots of what’s going on inside the heads of the tormented lovers.
The entire show is accompanied by a solo pianist Craig Terry. The uncomplicated choice continues to draw focus to the complex emotional singing. In theory, the decision is simple and strong. In reality, the Harris Theater’s concrete facade is an echo chamber. Without an orchestra to provide a sound buffer, every cough, whisper, dropped program is an audible distraction. Despite that unwanted soundtrack, HE/SHE boldly finishes off Chicago Opera Theater’s innovative season with a return to the basics: spectacular operatic singing!
HE/SHE is sung in German with English supertitle and in Czech with English supertitles. Run Time: 90 minutes including one intermission
All photos by Liz Lauren