Hubbard Street Dance, Berkeley

Written by:
David E. Moreno
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HubbardStreet littlemortaljump 05 JesseBechardAnaLopez Credit ToddRosenberg
Jesse Bechard and Ana Lopezin “little mortal jump”
Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Zellerbach Hall – Berkeley
February 2, 2013
Hubbard Street Dance website
Cal Performances website
Little mortal jump (2012) – Bay Area Premiere
Azimuth (2013) – World Premiere
Too Beaucoup (2011) West Coast Premiere

The only trouble with “Little mortal jump,” as the first dance of this program, is that it is so darn good. Meaning, you might feel so satisfied that you won’t want to see more. Or, you might just want to see it a second time so that you can digest its swift and intricate enormity. So is the creativity of rising-star-choreographer, and the company’s first resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo. In this signature piece is a constant stream of acrobatic poetry, dark humor, and slow motion lyricism – a lyricism he interrupts as fast as possible.

“Little mortal jump” starts before the curtain rises, with Kurt Weill-like cabaret music. This genre of music coupled with the initial appearance of men wearing suspenders gives the impression that Lmj is a period piece. But, this introduction serves only as a departure that moves quickly into imaginary time and space. This invented landscape is manipulated by large black Velcro dice-like cubes that categorize time, frame time, or obstruct it. Dancers move the cubes, disappear into them, are framed by them, and, in one case, fling themselves onto the Velcro surface where – yes – they stick to it. For a moment, the Velcro dancers appear as bas-relief on the face of the cube before stripping out of their costumes. The shells of these costumes remain attached to the surface like abandoned cocoons. Liberated from their old selves they dance unshackled in front of them.

The use of these cubes as both sculpture and choreography is reminiscent of the wall mounting style of Netherland Dans where dancers perform on falling or rising surfaces and reflects Cerrudo’s association with that company as a dancer earlier in his career. The cubes in Lmj allow dancers seamless transitions on and off stage and add to the momentum of this piece. A stunning coupling of the exquisite Ana Lopez and the equally fluid Jesse Bechard bring the piece to its impressive conclusion.

For, “Azimuth,” Hubbard Street Dance Chicago united with San Francisco’s Alonzo King LINES Ballet for a world premiere. This union not only increased the number of dancers on stage to 28 but also the level of expectation. Distinguished by nine segments, the first segment made an impressive impact when seeing the combined company en mass – as if coming across a migration of birds. Robert Rosenwasser simple nude colored costumes increased the sense of mass and uniformity with King’s choreography accentuating winged and craning gestures. The sheer volume of dancers produced a solid, yet, moveable nest for mini solos to take flight from, with principles disappearing into and then rising out of the flock.

But, uniformity can also imply monotony and the appeal of King’s predictable balletic lines soon began to tire, dwindling the hope for something truly inspiring to come from this confluence. At one point the choreography even took on classic ballet staging with the female dancers splitting the stage, while up stage a partially open curtain reveals male dancers rolling through a variety of montages amidst a bank of smoke — ala Swan Lake. Soloist do their best and have a lovely time of it, with Johnny McMillan outshining no matter what role he is carrying or no matter how deep into the flock he receded. Unfortunately, Azimuth is not a dance that one will think about once its wings have been spread.

Similarly, “Too Beaucoup” strives for conformity, even dressing dancers in white unisex body suits, ruthless white wigs, and uncanny white contact lenses. The dancers as dehumanized products mechanically dance and collide with each other as if industrial molecules performing some endless task under the totalitarianism of a techno-beat- soundtrack. With “Too Beaucoup” there is every opportunity for triteness, especially with its repetitive robotesque movement and Kraftwork-like music. Yet, it manages to be as sexy as an Apple computer store – sterile and sexy — held together by the sheer onslaught of its pure energy and sharp lighting design by Avi Yona Bueno.

Hubbard Street is the only American dance company to present the critically acclaimed work of Israeli choreographers, Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar. These two impressively created “Too Beaucoup,” its computer-love soundtrack and androgynistic costumes, while clearly having a hysterical time doing so.

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