On March 16-19, Hubbard Street Dance introduced its Spring Series with four very distinct and dynamic works—Imprint by Lucas Crandall, Violoncello and Jardi Tancat by Nacho Duato and Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo. This year’s Spring Series also marks Hubbard Street’s twenty-year anniversary of performing Nacho Duato’s work, a collaboration initiated by founder Lou Conte who invited Duato to stage the first European work on the company. Despite the diverse themes, all four works include powerful imagery and require technical stamina, which the dancers of Hubbard Street eloquently mastered.
Rehearsal director Lucas Crandall’s Imprint, a full company work, opened this year’s Spring series.
In this work, which is inspired by stampedes, Lucas aimed “to create an experience both visceral and visual – one which expresses a collective consciousness by exploring the dancer’s instinctive responses to natural and urban imagery.”
As the curtain slowly rises, one dancer walks slowly across the stage, clad in a black velvet unitard and high heeled boots. More dancers enter and we see that all of the dancers have their faces covered by their turtlenecks, at times quickly lowering the fabric to reveal expressionless faces, to no sooner cover their faces again. The dancers cross paths with varying speeds and embodying very angular movements in this seemingly urban environment. At one point, the dancers form a straight-line downstage, lowering their masks one at time while the spotlight illuminates them. The dancers eventually all sit with their legs dangling off the edge of the stage while removing their shoes.
The music drastically shifts, as Lincoln Chase’s “Nitty Gritty” accompanies the dancers in an almost Fosse-like series of seated gestural movements. The dancers all fall into the orchestra pit, and two dancers crawl back up onto stage, now dressed only in nude undergarments for an exquisite duet incorporating delightfully suspended lifts. The other dancers enter the stage as we begin to see a sea of bodies dynamically running in a wave that seems to engulf the entire stage. Hubbard Street Dancer David Schultz is seated in the upstage corner providing improvised live percussion, offering a somewhat organized chaos to set the scene for the dancers. The movement begins to decelerate as we see one dancer crawling downstage. The curtain falls over her body, so that only her legs are left exposed, her feet pointing and flexing until her movement ceases.
Although there is a stark contrast between movement qualities and costumes of the two sections that at times may seem extreme, Crandall achieves his goal of portraying these dichotomous environments.
Nacho Duato’s Violoncello, a duet from Multiplicity, Forms of Silence and Emptiness and set to Bach’s Suite No 1 in G major, is a short but fluid duet in which the musician-instrument relationship is explored. Danced by Jacqueline Burnett and Michael Gross, the couple embody musician and instrument, an intricately weaving partnership showing the subtleties and vitality of this relationship.
There are no moments of stillness throughout the work and the dancers remain in one spot throughout. Despite the lack of locomotion through space, the dancers never seem to repeat any movements, an impressive task given the spatial boundaries.
On a personal note, Nacho Duato was my introduction to contemporary dance as a young summer student at the American Ballet Theater in New York over 15 years ago. I still remember the first time I saw this work which helped expand my movement repertoire and receptivity to contemporary dance forms.
Duato’s second piece of the evening’s performance is actually the first work he choreographed, which premiered in 1983 for Nederlands Dance Theater. Jardi Tancat, (closed garden) explores three couples as they plant and sow the barren Catalonian land. Set to Catalan music recorded by vocalist María del Mar Bonet, the work begins with simple drumming as the three men (Hortin, Schultz and Lochner) dance, their spines undulating and pulsing as their backs face the audience. The connection to the earth is made evident by the very grounded movements, constantly cycling from reaching towards the ground to upwards to the sky. The women (Tong, Leriche and Lopez) similarly display fluidity in their spines as they as carve through the space, embodying strength in this pastoral landscape. At one point, four dancers lie down with their backs facing the stage, seemingly to rest, as they watch two other dancers. The physicality and endurance of working the land is danced beautifully by the six dancers and I felt transported for a moment back to this era that Duato aims to depict.
The evening ended with Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo, inspired by the poem Lines for Winter by Mark Strand. As Pite notes, Solo Echo “presents a man reckoning with himself at the end of his life.” The work opens with a band of falling snow, descending slowly along the backdrop of the stage, pausing for a few minutes in the middle until the entire backdrop from floor to ceiling is illuminated with this falling snow. The seven dancers, all dressed in black vests and pants, each present a different version of the character as we begin to see connections unfurl through very intricate partnering, full of continuous catching and releasing. This athletic work includes beautiful spiraling and extensions in both the lower and upper body. The dancers form striking formations throughout the work, including a moment in which the dancers line up to create an image reminiscent of a metronome. The piece ends with a singular dancer on stage, echoing back to the reflective tribulations of the central character.
Watch this video about the Hubbard Winter series that includes snippets of Solo Echo here--
To learn more about Hubbard Street Dance visit their website .
Harris Theater’s season of dance and music performances continues. For schedule, tickets and more information visit the Harris Theater website.
About the Author:
Ashley Fargnoli is a dancer, choreographer, and dance/movement therapist She honed her choreographic skills at Jacob’s Pillow's Choreographers Lab and has implemented numerous dance projects around the world, including in the Balkans with the goal of ethnic reconciliation. She additionally trained in ballet and modern dance at the American Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Academy of Ballet, and Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet., and in France with the Ballet de Lorraine (Nancy), at the Conservatoire de Nantes and also performed with the National Ballet in Sarajevo. When not performing or choreographing, Ashley works with refugees as a dance/movement therapist. www.ashleyfargnoli.comwww.ashleyfargnoli.com