REVIEW: Hubbard Street

Dance is somewhat of a challenge for me to understand. I lack the proper vocabulary and background knowledge to truly and accurately describe what I see performed in front of me. That said I thoroughly enjoyed Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s amazing performance of, One Thousand Pieces. I will do my best to tell you why.

First off, it’s beyond beautiful. The dancers move with such grace and precision – I sort of made up this game to try and see if I could see someone’s knee twitch or foot slip out of place, but I never caught any slip-ups. Every move was deliberate and precise. They would rush to complete a phrase then slow to a gentle glide across the sleek dance floor. It was spectacular. Their performance also featured a mist curtain, hanging as a billowy and ever-changing backdrop to their movements. The scene change with the mist curtain also left the stage littered with water droplets, in which the dancers continued to glide and float on stage to the rhythms of Phillip Glass’s music. The sound of the water could reach me in the balcony. I was even able to make out sparkling droplets of water dancing through the air as the artists flipped their arms in the mist.

This dance performance was not a story ballet or anything – the aim, as defined by Hubbard’s first resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, was to show how images are shaped and distorted through stained glass. Why stained glass? The choreography was inspired by Marc Chagall’s America Windows, as seen on display at the Chicago Art Institute. The props were simplistic but did include a few mirrors, tilted this or that way. It was also cool to watch the dancers when the lighting adjusted to show a vibrant reflection in the floor beneath their spinning bodies. So many of their movements seemed to me to be in a singular plane, moving within some sort of field of restraint. When I would glance at the dancers’ reflections in the mirrors or the floor, their movements seemed flattened and more distant – as if I were watching the performance through a window. It was unlike anything I’d seen before. It gave a whole new dimension to the work for sure.

Hubbard Street is an amazing company and worthy of all the praise they receive. Bravo to the dancers and thanks to UMS for bringing this fabulous company to our Ann Arbor stages.

PREVIEW: Hubbard Street Dance!

This weekend come check out the UMS presentation of Hubbard Street Dance. Performing a piece inspired by Marc Chagall’s America Windows and written by Hubbard Street’s first resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, the performance is sure to take your breath away. Cerrudo, when interviewed, commented on how windows shape and distort images – this is the inspiration of the piece. They use water effects, like mist curtains, and special backlighting to exemplify the beauty of the dancers. It is sure to be a spectacle of a performance, so get on those tickets, folks!

PREVIEW: Julian Allen Senior Recital

Julian Allen Senior Recital

It’s recital season. This means that every venue in Ann Arbor is jam packed with parents, friends, and artistic talent on any given day of the month. On Saturday April 27th, The Yellow Barn hosts the Julian Allen Senior Recital. A musician in the School of Music, this performance will feature original music and lyrics by Julian Allen and multi-media collaboration with local artists. Both jazz and electronic, vocals and rap, this dynamic and varied recital will explore a number of themes, techniques, and messages. In conjunction with Dance BFA student Julia Smith-Eppsteiner, local hip-hop artists Tree City and Kadence, and a number of U-M School of Music students and alum, this performance will run the gamut of Ann Arbor talent. The show starts at 6 pm. The Yellow Barn is located on 416 W. Huron Street. See you there!


Dance Meditation

Dance Meditation is a meditative, community dance party happening in Ann Arbor this Sunday. Originated by Michael Patrick Peters, the practice started in Detroit and has migrated toward our town for the weekend. Based on the yogic movement techniques, the practice is inspired by an experimental healing ideology called Transforming Tension Through Creativity. Dance Meditation involves letting loose and moving the body however it needs to in order to expel tension or creative blockage. Two of my friends wo are U of M grads that recently moved to Detroit attended the original Detroit variation. They claimed it was the most invigorating experience they had ever shared with their new community.

For an energetic, cathartic, liberating, rejuvenating, creative evening of dance, don’t miss this unique opportunity to let loose and be free. The event will start at 5:30 pm on Sunday February 24th at Concourse Hall (4531 Concourse Drive). $15 at the door includes space to dance and tea following the meditation. Check out the Facebook event for more details and directions. See you there!

REVIEW: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet


Last weekend, the Aspen Santa Fe performed at the Power Center. It was a rainy Sunday and I spent the morning eating brunch at a hole-in-the-wall cake shop on the Old West Side called Jefferson Market and then watching the matinée performance. The indulgent outing felt  both classic and obsolete: When was the last time I, a.) attended a ballet or b.) went to a matinée that was preceded by brunch on the town? My only justification was that going to the performance was required for my ballet class. But I am very glad that it was because the dance itself was truly a spectacle.

The show was visually stunning, incredibly professional, tightly rehearsed, and impressively physical. The presentation was a breath taking combination of artistry and athleticism that I have rarely seen. The costumes revealed a great deal of skin and muscle on both males and females that really made me wonder how many crunches they all do per day. Half the drama of the show was simply the chiseled appearance of their abs and buns. I’m serious.

The piece was comprised of three acts; Square None (2012), Stamping Ground (1983), and Over Glow (2011). Each act differed from the next in its score, its choreography, its costumes design, and its lighting scheme, but it was clear that they were intended to be a part of a unified, coherent performance.

The first piece used grey lighting and darker musical tones while the second used no music and bright lighting. The first two appeared to make commentary on modern culture: the first was structured around bionic, wind-up-doll-like gestures. The second was very animalistic and primitive, using the body as a drum to make rhythms rather than electronic sound. (The second piece was by far my favorite; it was the most animated, relatable, and story-like whereas the other were more theoretical and abstruse). The last piece was the prettiest, with pastel colors and graceful lifts, leaps, and pirouettes. It was lovely to watch, but was my least favorite act because it felt sort of flat in comparison to the creativity in the previous two.

One thing I have not mentioned yet is the fact that this kind of ballet is not like Swan Lake or The Nutcracker. It’s not classical ballet, its neo-classical; its contemporary. It uses the same structure and techniques as ballet (straight legs, delicate fingers, turned out feet) but also incorporates movement that more resembles modern dance. Contemporary ballet allows for a greater breadth of movement and does not adhere as strictly to the lines set forth by the original forms of classic ballet. In many ways, especially after seeing Aspen Santa Fe’s performance, I find myself drawn to this genre. It is still both pretty and recognizable, but also fluid, creative, and unusual.

Sunday brunch and a matinée at the Power Center is one of the easiest assignments I’ve ever been given. Oh, and one last fun fact about the costume design from Square None was that it was designed by Project Runway celebrity contestant Austin Scarlett. Who knew.

Preview: Dance for Mother Earth Powwow

From the Native American Student Association:

The Native American Student Association is hosting the 40th Annual Dance for Mother Earth Powwow next weekend, March 17 and 18, at Pioneer High School. Powwows are gatherings that Native American people use as a place to meet, dance, sing and otherwise renew and strengthen our rich culture.
These gatherings are held year-round and many Native people travel great distances to attend them.

Today, the Dance for Mother Earth Powwow is one of the largest university powwows in the nation; according to USA Today Travel, it is one of “10 great places to be wowed by American Indian culture.” The 2012 Powwow will continue the tradition of providing a gathering place for Native Americans to celebrate and share their culture with one another, and for others who are interested in learning about our country’s strong indigenous heritage. This year’s Powwow will host over 150 dancers, 12 drums, and over 33 vendors/artists from across the nation and throughout Indian Country. In addition, there will be special celebrations to pay tribute to 40 strong years of powwowing for Mother Earth.

Blue Michigan buses will be running from the Michigan Union every half hour all Saturday and Sunday.

40th Annual Ann Arbor Dance for Mother Earth Powwow
40th Annual Ann Arbor Dance for Mother Earth Powwow