REVIEW: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

I attended the Saturday show (they performed two different programs). I haven’t gone to contemporary dance performances before, so this was a new experience. This one was environmentally themed, centered on things that are debilitating: plastics, overdependence on electronic devices, and habitat degradation. They performed two dances, punctuated by an instrumental piece performed by Third Coast Percussion, who also provided live accompaniment for the dances.

I liked the first one best. A poem narrated the evolution of the universe, from elements to the creation of the earth, the evolution of humans, and finally the disconnect between humans and nature. The dancer portraying the Earth was beautiful: she exuded strength and grace. What I loved about this piece was the interplay between dancers. Movements that would have been chaotic on their own made sense when they danced as one, and they were so attuned to each other here it was an extraordinary sight to watch. At one point the dancers recreated the classic human-evolving-upright-stature diagram, so subtly it took me a moment to register it. They also took time to dance in pairs. There is something breathtaking about the intimacy created by two people dancing together, sharing their bodies and space to create something  greater.

The instrumental piece was pretty, but I had a hard time staying engaged. There were so many things happening in the music at once that it was impossible to focus on all of them.

However, I liked their performance, and I was happy to find that in the third piece they were integrated into the beginning, moving around the main part of the stage and interacting with the dancers. Musical accompaniment can make or break a performance, and so it was good to see this relationship acknowledged here. The dance I found somewhat incomprehensible and disjoint. The dancers were attached to each other in ribbons for reasons I couldn’t perceive, the choreography had a strange juxtaposition of angry, almost feral movements, and languid ones, and there was a plastic bag that kept appearing, adding arbitrarily crinkling noises into a performance that was otherwise so controlled. Confused and slightly concerned (the dancers kept putting it over their heads), I only found out its significance because I stayed for the Q&A (it was one of the items that debilitate us). The one thing I did love here was that the dancers seemed almost to be experimenting with each other’s bodies, making the dance seem exploratory and almost childlike instead of the highly choreographed sequence it was.

My thoughts on the choreography aside, the dancers were incredibly talented. Unsurprising, I know, but I was still astounded at their ability to move what seemed like every bone of their bodies separately from the others. As a dancer of Brazilian Zouk, I am more adept at such isolations than most, yet this level of control is one I could only dream of achieving. So if I have a chance to see another performance of theirs, I definitely will be taking it.

Neha Srinivasan

I'm a landscape architecture master's student who's doing her best not to loathe her design software. When I'm not designing (what a broad word), I'm probably reading, listening to music, dancing Brazilian Zouk, or talking to my houseplants.

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