The figures look like flowers, with their flowing red garments billowing around them. But those graceful appendages quickly turn into nets they bind each other in, often seemingly by accident. This is Fold Me, one of the new works presented by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as part of their winter new works festival from December 6-9. In a show that featured Hubbard Street’s professional training program as well as its company members, the cast was massive and if there was a connecting theme throughout the pieces, it was the memetic spread of attitudes through crowds.
Society as an Organism
Das Feld, the first of the three pieces, is a meditation on nothing less than the legacy every relationship leaves on those who come after. Choreographed by Florian Lochner, it opened with the lighting rig designed by Kaili Story rising as a curtain would on other play-worlds. Its conceit is the use of audio recordings of the dancers describing mortality and love as an accompaniment to crowd scenes, usually with an exemplary couple briefly splitting off to embody a particular moment before being reabsorbed. As the main body of dancers contorted in ameba-like progression to a throbbing techno beat, some people fell suddenly, others clung to each other like ghosts.
Dance is a form that focuses on young healthy bodies, and the recordings about death included a lot of “my grandmother,” and “when I think about a long time from now…” However, the fragmentary discussion of relationships (not just romantic ones, but even those with objects) provides Lochner with more to work with. Movements travel from one dancer to another, with minor variations, rapidly resulting in grace or catastrophe. Sometimes the whole shudders at once, more often, small groups of people experience individually the same thing everyone else was shortly before or after.
Refracted Selves Jumbling Together
Fold Me, choreographed by Alice Klock, features the most distinctive visuals. It is also the piece which most features individual performers, which is ironic since it’s said to be based on alternate universe versions of the same people interacting. The striking red costumes are by Jenni Schwaner Ladd, and besides being props, they cleverly allow the dancers to introduce the segment through rapidly framing each other, as with a camera shutter. There’s something vaguely menacing in how low the massive light hangs as the dancers tangle in and out of each other, and something decidedly unsettling in the discordant two-instrument music. Klock seems to suggest that multiple versions of the same self might seem alien and threatening even to each other, and that it takes great struggle to arrive at harmony between them.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Dancing in the Street
The third main piece is appropriately called III. Third. It actually refers to a series by choreographer Rena Butler devoted to gender, race, and culture, with this one focusing on culture. It finds the performers in what could pass for street clothes, dancing in a party atmosphere to the original music of Darryl J. Hoffman. The piece slows down as we watch the dancers observe each other’s movements in other settings, some drawing inspiration from things they saw others do that may not have started as dances at all. By the end, it feels as if the audience gets to watch a live music video, as a seemingly endlessly growing crowd joins together in a setting that looks just like a street dance. In the context of the winter series, III. Third is a fun palate cleanser. On its own, it’s a celebration of how everyone uses movement to learn from and understand each other.
Choreographers: Rena Butler, Alice Klock, Florian Lochner
Designers: Kaili Story, Jenni Schwaner Ladd, Darryl J. Hoffman
All photos by Todd Rosenberg
About the Author: Jacob Davis
Jacob Davis has lived in Chicago since 2014 when he started writing articles about theatre, opera, and dance for a number of review websites. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Department of Theatre, where he specialized in the history of modernist dramatic literature and criticism. While there, he interned as a dramaturge for Dance Heginbotham developing concepts for new dance pieces. His professional work includes developing the original jazz performance piece The Blues Ain’t a Color with Denise LaGrassa, which played at Theater Wit. He has also written promotional materials for theatre companies including Silk Road Rising.
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