Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Presents CRYSTAL PITE CHOREOGRAPHY Review- The Body Speaks

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago CRYSTAL PITE
Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago continues to celebrate its 40th Anniversary season during Harris Theater’s Winter Series with a full evening of work by world renowned choreographer Crystal Pite. The evening consists of three sensational works— A Picture of You Falling, The Other You, Grace Engine.

A Picture of You Falling

The evening begins with A Picture of You Falling, a duet performed by Jacqueline Burnett and Elliot Hammans.

A light moves across the stage behind the path of the semicircle of unlit standing lights— an arena of sorts. We hear the voice of Kate Strong reading text by Crystal Pite and sound by Owen Belton: “This is your voice. This is a picture of you.”

Elliot Hammans enters and begins moving alongside the words, bringing them to life. Jacqueline Burnett enters and walks towards Hammans. She unintentionally bumps into him and continues on her path, leaving him behind as he exits the stage.

Burnett’s movements also embody the words, she moves effortlessly like a paintbrush that never lifts off its canvas. She is embracing the space around her. As her solo progresses, we see Hammans walk across upstage. Perhaps this is a glimpse of one of Burnett’s memories.

Hamman enters and moves to Strong’s voice with precision and specificity. His technical prowess is highlighted. A presence that was not seen in him in the beginning is very much alive. We feel this presence, a glimpse into his true human-ness. We hold onto this moment as he exits the stage, once again.

Burnett takes her place on stage with her focus forward, unaware of when Hammans joins her. The first touch hits us with an excitement: he gently takes the back of her neck and guides her to the floor. They stay connected as he takes her body across the stage with ease.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago CRYSTAL PITE
(left to right) Michael Gross and Andrew Murdock Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago CRYSTAL PITE
(left to right) Andrew Murdock and Michael Gross Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago CRYSTAL PITE
Michael Gross (above) and Andrew Murdock (below) Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Though they are evidently connected, they still reach for each other almost in desperation. They share secrets and reminisce about shared memories through intimate touch. We are left mesmerized by their representation of the vulnerable human connection as the duet comes to an end.

The Other You

 The Other You, begins with our attention on Michael Gross who is attired in a suit. He is staring back at us, seated and blank-faced. His hands, as if they possess magnetic powers, begin to move his body. His hands hover and his knees bend. Next, his face. Sounds, designed by Owen Belton, of raindrops and street noise filters in. He continues in this manner until he reaches a standing position. Andrew Murdock, dressed just like Gross appears from the upstage shadows to join Gross on stage. They stand face to face about a foot apart as if Gross is looking at his own reflection.

Transitioning to what feels like the second part of the duet, Gross returns back to his beginning seated spot. He resumes his blank-faced stare. As Gross makes his first move, It appears as if he is being controlled through Murdock’s manipulations of a “third” invisible body. The duet soon becomes a trio: Gross, Murdock and the third invisible presence. This progresses until Murdock leaves the stage.

Gross continues manipulating his body on his own, an attempt to stay in control. This time it is faster and much more intense. The specificity of his movements and dedication to his expressionless face makes it look robot-like.

Murdock enters the stage again and partnering ensues with Gross. Their contact seems fairly peaceful at first. We start to hear them whisper to one another almost as if they are giving each other words of advice. The partnering intensifies as their voices get louder. Suddenly, a bright light from above shines down on them and they stop moving--perhaps a moment of clarity. Ludwig van Beethoven's “Moonlight Sonata” begins to play.

As the duet comes to an end, we see choreographed phrases of synchronicity, which may allude to a coherent mind. The choreography emphasizes the epitome of human nature. We are constantly negotiating with our thoughts-- an eternal, internal battle.

Grace Engine

The third and final piece features the full company, showcasing their jaw-dropping technical and artistic capability.

Grace Engine explores the busy nature of our everyday lives-- the negotiations we take within ourselves and with others. It commences with the first dancer walking alone to the sound of a person walking heavily in an empty, echoing hallway. The fluid solo progresses as he spins, whips, falls and rebounds. He engulfs the space with confidence. Sounds of a train engine come in with intensity. Darkness. All of a sudden the stage is lit with bright back lights revealing the silhouettes of a suit-wearing stampede running across the stage. Chaos ensues and the soloist is paralyzed with fear but after moments of stillness he continues.

The piece progresses to a section involving four men. They push and pull each other into the ground and up in the air. Movements appear very pedestrian but are elevated with brute force and muscular effort. The men move as if they are just barely dodging dangerous collisions. They move as if they are invincible.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago CRYSTAL PITE
Photo: Todd Rosenberg
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago CRYSTAL PITE
Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Solos and duets among a sea of dancers continues to drive the high energy of the Pite’s choreography. Then, all the dancing bodies create a line across the stage, walking together as one entity with their backs turned to us. We see moments of bodies yearning to escape. As they pull away we see exaggerated facial expressions of desperation, anger and sadness.

The piece culminates with two female dancers in a duet. Intimate at first, but turning into a confrontational partnership. They are determining who is in control. One of them is dragged until she reattaches to the line.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is Must See

Crystal Pite’s choreography taps into the intricacies of human relationships and how these elements intertwine and clash within our daily practices. To translate this so effectively into choreography is quite an impressive feat. There is also no doubt that the performers of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago do her work justice.

Learn more about dance by seeing dance through dancers eyes in the Picture This Post series, “Choreographers’ Eyes - Dancers Explain Dance”.  Watch this video preview of the story here— 


Fri, December 8, 8:00 PM

Sat, December 9, 8:00 PM

Sun, December 10, 3:00 PM


Harris Theater for Music and Dance
205 E Randolph Street
Chciago, IL 60601



For more information visit Harris Theater Website.


All photos by Todd Rosenberg.

Hairpin Arts Center - Element Ballet presents IN THE GARDEN OF ATLANTIS
Tuli Bera Photo: Matthew Gregory Hollis

Tuli Bera is a performance artist based in Chicago.  She received her BFA from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  She has performed in works by Earl Mosley, Jennifer Archibald, Endalyn Taylor, Catrina Choate and Johanna Meyers.  Bera is currently a dancer with Project Ishti led by Preeti Veerlapati and Kinnari Vora. Most recently she danced in their new work, "Prakriti" which premiered at the 2017 Chicago Fringe Festival. She is the director of J e l l o: performance series housed by Links Hall and Elastic Arts which provides opportunities for Chicago artists to show their work. For more information about The Series Website.

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