Chicago Theatre Review
Hubbard Street stuns with multifaceted, wild 40th anniversary show
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is among the city’s premiere dance companies, but its current show at the Harris Theater – in commemoration of the company’s 40th anniversary – is stunning even by Hubbard’s standards, and offered moments of wild energy, hilarious irony, and soul-rocking profundity.
Opening with “Imprint,” a lovely duet to Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” Hubbard immediately turns things to 11 with “One Flat Thing, reproduced,” an astounding, exhausting piece choreographed by William Forsythe that received overwhelming praise when Hubbard originally performed it in 2015. With lighting and stage design both from Forsythe, Hubbard’s dancers – 14 in total – perform gravity-defying routines above, below, and alongside 20 steel tables arranged in several rows and columns on the stage, all while Thom Willem’s percussive, avant garde music drones aggressively in the background. The results are, simply, stunning. Willem’s music provides no rhythm or beats – it’s all sounds, tones, and textures – so Hubbard’s dancers, who prove themselves more than capable with Forsythe’s demanding choreography, have nothing more than their own cues and counts to go off when performing. As I watched “One Flat Thing” play out, I was filled with tension and awe in equal parts – awe at the virtuosity on display, tension at the demanding, philosophical questions that Forsythe and Hubbard propose.
“One Flat Thing” was, for me, the highlight of the show, but that hardly means that the other moments of the show were not noteworthy in their own way. “One Thousand Pieces,” for instance, is the ultimate cool down from the white-hot avant garde of “One Flat Thing,” an elegant, even elegiac work to the piano sounds of Philip Glass performed on a stage covered in water droplets. “A Picture of You Falling,” an unorthodox solo work with choreography by Crystal Pite, uses a Kate Strong narration to bold effect. And “The 40s” is an energetic, tongue-in-cheek treatment on that decade, though admittedly, the lack of diversity among Hubbard’s dancers blunted its impact.
The other standout performance was “The Golden Section,” choreographed by the legendary Twyla Tharp and set to the funky, charging rhythms of The Talking Heads’ David Byrne. Clad in yellow and prancing, shimmying, and jumping across a stunningly lit stage (kudos to Jennifer Tipton), the sheer delight of Hubbard’s dancers is contagious, and they had the audience hanging on to their every move and gesture. This was not the intense, postmodern, aggressive dance of Forsythe’s “One Flat Thing,” though. Tharp’s choreography, though physically demanding and stunning to behold, also bears a wonderful sense of humor, and the result is one of joy.
Suffice to say, Hubbard’s talented members earned every standing ovation at the end of Thursday’s two-hour performance, and I left the theater excited to see what the company does next.
Reviewed by Peter Ricci
Presented by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at the Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph St, Chicago, IL 60601, through June 11
Tickets are available at https://www.harristheaterchicago.org or by calling 312.334.7777.