In the wake of “The Art of Falling,” its groundbreaking collaboration with The Second City earlier this fall at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has returned to pure dance mode. Now, in the more intimate space of the Museum of Contemporary Art Theater, where it will perform through Sunday, the company is dancing new works by three choreographers — Robyn Mineko Williams, Victor Quijada and Kyle Abraham — each of whom has been the recipient of a Princess Grace Award.
HUBBARD STREET DANCE CHICAGO IN
‘PRINCESS GRACE AWARDS: NEW WORK’
When: Tonight (Dec. 11) through Dec. 14
Where: Museum of Contemporary Art Theater, 220 E. Chicago
Info: (312) 397-4010; mcachicago.org
Run time: 85 minutes with no intermission
Of the three pieces, it is Williams’ “Waxing Moon,” danced with breathtaking beauty and intensity by Andrew Murdock, Jacqueline Burnett and Jonathan Fredrickson, that left the deepest impression. Williams, who danced with Hubbard Street for 12 years, and has grown into a choreographer of great sophistication and power, displayed her gift for suggesting relationships and giving the dancers something more substantial to work with than abstract movement. It made all the difference.
When we first see Murdock he is seated on a folding chair and is clearly wracked by some sort of anxiety and deep disquiet. From time to time Fredrickson enters and rearranges him, suggesting a subtle power game or competition. Then, Fredrickson and Burnett engage in a seductive duet that Murdock watches with a clear sense of despair.
A sense of suspense (and even the potential for violence) hangs in the air. But then the dynamic shifts as Murdock and Burnett seem to reconnect in a fierce, passionate, sometimes achingly antagonistic duet. The sweep of emotion in this “triangular” relationship is never cliched or predictable. The fascinating original score is by Robert F. Haynes and Tony Lazarra. (Note: An alternating cast, including Michael Gross, Emilie Leriche and Johnny McMillan, will perform “Waxing Moon” this weekend.)
In “Enter Woven,” Quijada, the founder of Montreal’s RUBBERBANDance Group, draws heavily on his early years in the Los Angeles hip-hop club scene, interweaving break dance moves with the vocabulary of modern dance and ballet, and playing off ideas of the crowd versus the individual in a work that at times looks like a post-modern “West Side Story.” Dressed in subtle camouflage costumes, the ensemble of 13 Hubbard Street dancers are impressive in the way they give themselves over to the hip-hop style (a feat not unlike opera singers trying to sing jazz standards). The atmospheric score is the work of “turntable-ist” Jasper Gahunia.
Kyle Abraham’s piece, “Counterpoint,” which premiered at the Chicago Dancing Festival this past August, has moments of great sculptural beauty and poetry, but it also can be immensely irritating. It moves from solos to duets to trios to full ensemble sections for its seven dancers, as gauzy curtains along the back wall of the stage open and close in various increments (adding nothing but distraction). The dancing is impeccable with the cast I saw, including Burnett, Fredrickson, Kellie Epperheimer, Jessica Tong, Alicia Delgadillo, Michael Gross and Jesse Bechard. All moved expertly through the passages of silence and Johann Johannsson’s electronic static score. But only Burnett fully and easily embraced the section of the work set to Brahms’ surging Piano Concert No. 1 in D Minor. (The alternate cast for this work includes Jason Hortin, Kevin J. Shannon, Ana Lopez, Tong, Delgadillo, Leriche and McMillan.)