and/or entertainment: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
While You’re Dancing
By Mae G. Banner
Street Dance Chicago
Egg, March 5
Smooth, sexy, treading the shifting line between erotic and
X-rated, Love Stories is definitely a date ballet.
It’s studded with provocative moves that say, “Do try this
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago put all their sleek energy into
their preview of this new dance made for them by Lar Lubovitch
and set to the beyond-hip vocals of Kurt Elling. Love Stories
was the peak of an evening of relationship dances last Friday
at the Egg. One way or another, everything the 21-member company
danced explored aspects of love.
Lubovitch is known for his flawless craftsmanship—he has called
himself a carpenter—and for matching his choreography, sometimes
too closely, to the music. Love Stories was a prime
example of Lubovitch in the narrative mode. It rose above
the mundane, floating on Elling’s singular phrasing, his vocal
range that runs from tenor to soprano sax, and his easy segues
in and out of advanced scat singing.
Three couples embodied different stages of love, moving closely
to the words and music of “The More I Have You” (danced by
Robyn Williams and Yarden Ronen), “Prelude to a Kiss” (Hope
Muir and Robin Del Cuore) and “Every Time We Say Goodbye”
(Erin Derstine and Martin Lindinger). The duets were framed
by Jamy Meek’s otherworldly solo turn as “Nature Boy” and
his lonely summing up in “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”
The couples wear street clothes in shades of gray or black,
making them a different breed from the elfin Meek who appears
as an alien in his white leotard and tights. His elongated
body writhes; his arms describe oddly curving patterns. He
has a mordant lesson for these lovers, if they can take it
Williams and Ronen are mostly having fun, swinging as if wired
on black coffee, doing big back-kicks while the jazz piano
rips. They’re deep in the mood. Muir and Del Cuore, in black,
are balletic from the first slow-motion lift. He sets her
down on her back and his arms circle her body, in a gesture
of adoration and possession. He lifts her and dives her back
to the ground as if she were an amusement park ride. She stands
with her back to us as, in a final near-pornographic gesture,
he pulls her blouse down around her shoulders.
The third couple, Derstine and Lindinger, are past all that.
Their close dance, a last fling before parting, ends in a
gesture of rejection when she extends her hand and he flips
it away and walks off.
This is the signal for Meek’s return. He leads the ensemble,
dancing with each woman in turn. He’s half hoofer, half ballet
dancer, and all magic. He winds up solo, in that same position,
open-legged, on his knees, fist to chest in a gesture of loneliness.
Hubbard Street, under their new artistic director Jim Vincent,
is building an ever-growing repertoire of works by European
and North American choreographers, including dances by company
members. Their concert opened with two short, aggressive dances,
both made in 2004.
by company dancer Brian Enos is a piece for three couples
set to the Afro-European mouth music of Zap Mama. These couples
are not partners. They are six tough customers in their muscle
costumes of see-through tops and bikini briefs. Their moves
are springy and articulate, with lots of African-inspired
isolations. The dance escalates, growing in energy and speed,
veering very close to what you’d see on MTV, and, like the
music, rousing and in your face.
by artistic associate Lucas Crandell also ends up in your
face, literally. It’s a duet for Shannon Alvis and Scott Kepley,
who appear as a couple of kids in heavy Dr. Martens high-tops.
Jigging and thigh- slapping to the wonderful old-time plucked
strings sound of traditional Norwegian music, they lunge and
lurch, playing a vigorous game that’s a kids’ equivalent of
The evening finished with an entertaining satire of glam-rock
days in London. Rooster (2004) by British choreographer
Christopher Bruce is an ensemble dance to such Rolling Stones
faves as “Ruby Tuesday,” “Lady Jane,” and “Sympathy for the
Devil.” The men, in royal blue or wine- colored velvet jackets
straight from Carnaby Street, posture and strut, more for
each other than for the women, who mostly disdain them. Rooster
moves and oh-so-courtly faux Baroque flourishes are repeated
to different songs, acquiring new layers of meaning in different
The program at the Egg was fun, but a bit too one-note. Hubbard
Street started out in 1977 as a high-kicking, Broadway-style
troupe, but soon aspired more toward high art than entertainment.
If Hubbard Street had mixed it up and included some of their
European-made masterpieces, they’d have proved beyond a doubt
that art and entertainment are two sides of one coin.