Words about Dance
Ok maybe the alliteration is a stretch on the title front, but the point is, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Summer Series, a celebration of resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, is a must see for dance lovers this weekend. The Cerrudo Summer Series features Hubbard Street’s phenomenal ensemble in two past Cerrudo masterpieces and one World Premiere.
First on the bill is the 2007 work, Extremely Close. Beginning before the house lights go down, the curtain slowly inches upward over a ten minute span. Many of the most social audience members don’t even notice at first but one by one, people begin to see soft, white feathers, floating down to the stage floor behind the curtain. The silence and surprise creates a mystical effect as audience wonders what else they may not be noticing in their hasty effort to greet everyone they know and settle into their seats. Whether by accident or not, a few large bundles of feathers fall once or twice from the expansive flyspace of The Harris Theater, surprising the audience from their conversations and eliciting the first of many audible reactions throughout the evening. Extremely Close is a fine example of Cerrudo’s style, employing larger than life stage effects (big white, square-shaped panels that seemingly float in choreographed sweeps across the stage), smooth and sensual partnering work, and exciting visual effects. The highlight of this piece comes in Jessica Tong’s Thursday night performance of the work’s culminating duet with Andrew Murdock. Tong places her mouth over his, and in the sincerity of her performance, convinces the audience that she is swallowing a part of his being. Evoking intense emotion in the midst of fairly cold performances, Tong’s final resting, horizontal at center stage had me near tears. As Murdock (spoiler alert!) pulls a large black sheet upstage and her figure is made to completely disappear, as if evaporating into thin air, a collective sigh from the audience reaffirms my need to gasp for air as the lights fade.
Next, Still in Motion, a new work created to premiere in this concert provides a stark contrast to the two works it is sandwiched between. Yet another stunning stage effect pulls the focus upwards to the back of the stage. White marley is lifted from the floor and hangs, arching down to the dancing space, from what seems to be a glowing blue rod suspended in the air. The combination of the white marley and the neon blue supporting it creates a cold effect, as if watching the dancers in a laboratory experiment. A moment of warmth comes in the form of a duet with crooning music, and warmer lighting, but this vignette in relationship is soon swept away again by the army of ensemble members militaristically marching, outstretched and otherworldly in a square shape around the perimeter of the stage. Though cold in feeling Still in Motion provides much craved large group unison work to buff up the onslaught of solos, duets, and trios taking up most of the evening.
Finally, an oldie but goodie, Little mortal jump makes the perfect light-hearted finale for the celebrated choreographer’s evening. Dancer Kevin Shannon provides an adorable and exciting entrance through the audience, and brings a rare bit of personality to the Hubbard Street stage. Quirky duets, velcro suits, and fun costuming all precede an epic, dramatic ending as the immense black boxes used throughout seem to glide of their own accord in circles on the stage.
Admittedly, I was concerned at first, that an entire evening of works by Alejandro Cerrudo might grow tiresome in sameness, but to my pleasant surprise, the smart curation of works kept enough scope in mood that I was happily lulled through the hallmarks of Cerrudo’s movement vernacular. The Summer Series provides an excellent reminder of Cerrudo’s incredible ability to choreograph in the large scale and to conjure profound meaning within an abstract realm.
Summer Series runs this weekend, through June 14 at The Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph St). Tickets available by visiting Hubbard Street’s website or calling 312.850.9744.