Program B offered three Bay Area Premieres by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, including; “Perfectly Voiceless”, “For All Its Fury”, “Everything Must Go” featuring original compositions by London-born producer Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and were performed live by Grammy Award-winning, Chicago-based Third Coast Percussions. Hynes is known for dense modern pop with hip-hop roots even though his instrumentations for this program were more like a fusion of Philip Glass and contemporary gamelan music. The ensemble started the show with “Perfectly Voiceless”—showcasing four talented musicians and their instruments.
The next elements to descend onto the ensemble were three handsomely painted abstract scrolls (David Kim)–readying the stage for “For All Its Fury.” This first dance by the company dance was the most challenging of the entire program and made the least sense. One dancer moved aggressively with a cane, more as weapon than support, another with at beer bottle, as six other dancers made menacing hand gestures, grouped in a tight space beneath the scrolls. They moved and fought like monkeys with soloist Alysia Johnson sensually countering their moves panther-like. Was “For All Its Fury” a take on “The Gods Must Be Crazy”, where a Coke bottle falls from the sky and changes the behavior of the tribe in which it lands? Not only was the choreography (Emma Portner) aggressive and choppy with dancers fighting among themselves, but they also seemed to struggle with a self- imposed narrative and confining set–framed by musicians behind the scrolls, and by the limited possibilities that the scrolls had to offer as the set’s main element.
“Everything Must Go” (Teddy Forance, choreographer) seemed restricted in similar way as it meandered around the musicians (scrolls gone) before finding its fluidity and momentum, driven by the percussive music. A few dancers played handchimes, attempting to integrate the division between dancers and musicians, however both music and choreography lacked depth and originality, feeling more like filler than vision with a purpose.
When “Ignore” (excerpt from Decadance by Ohad Naharin) arrived, the set was completely stripped and brightly lit (Avi Yona Bueno), highlighting five female dancers in black shoulder-cut dresses (Rakefet). Striking a pose one at a time, at first like mannequins, then repeating each of their individual poses as a group, evolving the choreography into formations of repetitive movement. A voice over by Bobbi Jene Smith–dancer/choreographer, originally from Naharin’s illustrious Batsheva company, framed their moves with random phrases, “Ignore Beethoven, the spiders, the damnation of Faust…” adding a new phrase each time a round was completed. “Fuck… If you can’t fuck, copulate…” The absurdity of the spoken text, “Pay your taxes…” its reiteration along with the repetition of choreography seemed to mirror the looping repetitive music of Third Coast Percussions from earlier in the performance. “Ignore” had several entertaining aspects to it, but the indirect one was seeing Naharin’s choreography performed by dancers untrained in his trademark “Gaga” method, causing some essential part of this work to be missing, even though the five dancers were not lacking in talent.
On the heels of this all female dance were three male…in the buff…solos. “PACOPEPEPLUTO” showed off both the spectacular talent and bodies of Kevin J. Shannon, David Schultz, and Michael Gross as they soared to music by the “king of cool” Dean Martin. What’s not to like? “That’s amore!” It also struts the talent of its choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo who orchestrates both skill and athleticism with sharp wit and a distilled aesthetic. The only thing missing from this expose was a curtain call by stud dancers…“Ringadingading!”
As with Program A, this evening’s performance also ended with a large-scale dance of Canada’s leading choreographer, Crystal Pite. Her work often has a dystopian underbite, dark and forceful, with a solid masculine feel to it. In “Solo Echo” this signature is contrasted by the delicacy of snow gently falling and the tenderness of Johannes Brahms’ “Sonata for Cello and Piano in E minor”. Both soothed the dark edges of the stage and the equally black costuming of pinstriped vest and trousers (Crystal Pite and Joke Visser). Mesmerizing white snowflakes continued to fall throughout and was highlighted by a band of light (Tom Visser) that cut across the top of the stage, as dancers fell from each other’s holds, or were catapulted in romantic lifts, sensual group tableaus, and martial-arts-like tumbles. At a point when they collapsed in a row facing downstage, one at a time each of the dancers started to get up but only a little bit higher than the person in front of them, creating a stop-action effect with one dancer still laying flat on the floor and the seventh dancer standing. This happened quickly, appearing much like the fast moving images of a flipbook. “Solo Echo” is a cinematic and captivating dance, delicate as it is dynamic.
David E. Moreno