Crystal Pite GRACE ENGINE
A fluorescent line of light appears as a soloist walks toward the audience. We hear the click click click of his shoes against the floor. He is alone, in a suit, and the space feels vast. He turns the corner and begins moving fluidly across the stage. Bright lights flash from behind the sheer black skrim, and we see silhouettes of bodies running. The lights dim and the shadows of dancers run across the stage, right and left passing each other. Hands stretched, there is energy pumping through to the very tips of their fingers
Throughout Crystal Pite’s Grace Engine, the dancers seem to never be upright. Always slanted, in motion, forward-moving throughout this dynamic piece. The fluid rapidity of the choreography is key in Pite’s work. In this writer’s view, the Hubbard Street Dancers showcase this quality with ease and excellence.
We see different chains of dancers. Sometimes they are linked just at the arms. Sometimes each dancer is in the exact same position. And, sometimes they are linked with an arm wrapped around the torso. In these formations, the dancers form their own trains, as the soundscape fills the theatre with noises akin to engines and subway stations.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Choreography Explores Interplay of Rhythms and Sounds
The choreography matches the subtleties of the soundscape--dancers find rhythms within these seemingly arhythmic noises. This is a theme throughout all three pieces of the night: rhythm within the choreography holds its own space within the accompanying sounds. Each is cohesive when married, but could also stand alone. We can feel the rhythm within the bodies while its also pumped through our ears as music
Kyle Abraham THE BYSTANDER
We experience this in Kyle Abraham’s world premiere of The Bystander, a piece with depth, specificity, and vulnerability at the forefront. Set to Franz Schubert, and accompanied by projected text that catches the corner of your eye, the dancers traverse their world in search of being understood. Characters line the back screen, and we’re told of relations and subjects that are confounded and confusing, yet so prevalent in our society.
One dancer poses the question, to no one in particular, “Is it ‘Settlers of Cat-AN or Cat-ON’?” Putting different emphasis and pronunciation on the last syllable. Something so simple can be fixated upon, but the game itself still exists no matter how you say its name.
Each dancer is a character in this world, and they’re all related in some way. Duets emerge, men and women lifting and manipulating each other equally. The choreographic vocabulary is sprinkled with social dance steps, lending a grounded ness and constant pulse within the bodies throughout the piece.
Rena Butler THIS, THAT AND THE THIRD
Seven dancers dressed in white tank tops, shorts, and kneepads, dance in individual squares of light across the stage. The only thing differentiating them is their socks - orange, purple, red, green, pink, yellow, blue. They shake and shimmy, interjecting smooth technical movements with hard stops that seem to come from the space around them.
Chance The Rapper’s Everybody’s Something finds our ears through the booming speakers of the Harris Theatre, and a dancer walks out from his square and picks up his sheer yellow costume pieces from the floor as the other dancers leave the stage. This dancer seamlessly blends elements of hip hop, breakdancing, modern, and ballet techniques across the stage as Chance serenades us, “Everybody’s somebody’s everything...nobody’s nothin’”
Rena Butler, Hubbard Street dancer and Choreographic Fellow, put This, That, and the Third together as an investigation of intersectionality. Her work asks, where and how do different aspects of identity intersect? How do we find ways to communicate across perceived boundaries? How do we find comfort and love for ourselves and each other despite these differences? From language barriers, to cultural barriers, to gender identities, Butler showcases the struggles individuals go through while trying to discover where they lie on this colorful spectrum of humanity. Each dancer goes on their own journey in this colorfully lit, energetic, eclectic piece, ultimately finding love and understanding for each other as the wings, skrim, backdrop, elements that make up the stage are stripped away.
We are left feeling like this work, this life, it’s all so simple. We are all just here together, and that’s all that matters. The dancers all come together in a group huddle. They know each other so well now, and we know them by witnessing the journey that just unfolded before us.
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Through November 1o, 2019
205 East Randolph Street
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For full-priced tickets and ticket availability visit Harris Theater website.
Photos by Todd Rosenberg
About the Author:
Sarah Stearn is a movement artist, native of Chicago, and graduate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a BFA in Dance. Along with taking dance classes throughout the city, she is a dance instructor at the Irving Park YMCA and an organizer for the J e l l o Performance Series, housed at Links Hall and Elastic Arts.