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Flash Review 2, 6-3: Feet Aflame
Euro-inflected Hubbard Street Returns to NYC

By Tom Patrick
Copyright 2003 Tom Patrick

NEW YORK -- Since my college days, casting about for where to ply my trade in the dance biz, I have heard of the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago company and wondered about it. Everyone said it was really THE company if you were located anywhere between the American coasts, but sadly I never got to see the work. Also sadly, theatergoers in New York haven't been able to see the company here since 1994 -- yikes! I'm glad that the Joyce has stepped up to the plate and brought the troupe to New York. Hubbard Street was represented [to me] as being a strictly "jazz"-oriented ensemble then -- early/mid '80s -- but nowadays it is known as a major modern dance company.

Regarding this program (A), I have to make a regrettable disclaimer: I was hung up in subway hell and didn't make the opening curtain, thus missing the first work -- Daniel Ezralow's "Lady Lost Found" -- and slipping in during the subsequent pause. I was to hear feedback later that it was "delightful" and "charming," and I'm sorry to have missed it -- the programming didn't allow me to return for the piece before my deadline. Mea culpa folks.

Ahem! Sharing the first act with Ezralow's dance, I did see Harrison McEldowney's "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off," which was a witty duet. Charlaine Katsuyoshi and Joseph Pantaleon each took star-turns in solos while the other continued the conversation verbally. It was definitely a grin-provoking set-up, giving me the impression of a couple's minds wandering while ostensibly having a talk. Hence the title, that of the closing song where the dancers actually link up and acknowledge their differences and fondness for each other. McEldowney's perceptive movement for the pair blended well with the music of Gershwin et al, and the dancers were wonderfully at ease, even while speaking their time-sensitive lines....all smooth as silk.

Act Two contained two real objects of my curiosity. I was looking forward to Jiri Kylian's "No More Play," and couldn't have been happier with what I saw. Kylian's beautifully crafted piece rides upon Anton Webern's tense "Five Movements for a String Quartet," and was abstract and mysterious. I loved trying to crack the code of these communications among the cast, marveling at the choreographic language. The cast -- Taryn Kaschock, Jamy Meek, Cheryl Mann, Massimo Pacilli, and Zachary Whittenburg in the performance I saw -- was terrific in sustaining the line of taut fluidity throughout. "No More Play" is terrifically all-of-a-piece: the lighting (design by Joop Caboort) was highly involved (yes, I know that sounds silly, of course it was involved if I could see the dance) in a number of specific framings and tight cues quite articulately tied to the music and dancers. (Consequently, kudos to stage management, in calling everything flawlessly.) Wrapped in the concentration of these fine dancers, this was a terrific opportunity to see a really well choreographed work in very good hands..... Lovvved it!

Following this, another big draw: a Nacho Duato piece, "Cor Perdut" (meaning "lost heart"). The duet -- given this night by willowy Cheryl Mann and Tobin del Cuore, both with great authenticity and ease -- seemed a bit simplistic, perhaps hamstrung by the rhythmic regularity of the music of Maria del Mar Bonet. Strangely those most potent moments seemed to occur when the dancing veered away from the steady fast tempo. I remember being so thrilled seeing Duato's works on his company in the past, and knew I'd be seeing some very organic work here. Well, that is true: there were those sensuous undulations of the back, those smooth silky lifts, but I had a little trouble really finding the pulse of the piece and sorting out the alternating exuberance and lowness. And in an unintended program-order consequence, Duato's own lighting design -- basically flat and bright -- seemed like such an afterthought, a shame by comparison, in the wake of the Kylian.

Presumably the acquisition of these two Euro-sourced works owes much to the background of HSDC's artistic director Jim Vincent, who had quite a tenure in Europe as dancer and director in close proximity to Netherlands giants Kylian and Duato, and even to Mats Ek. Wow! These are big big credentials already, and performing these choreographers' dances is a big feather in HSDC's cap... and their gain is ours, right?

The performance's longest work concluded the evening with a premiere. Trey McIntyre's "Full Grown Man" was danced entirely to songs by Beck, and is a very highly-produced prototypical closer. Costumed in his-'n'-her summer scout uniforms, the indefatigable cast of 12 never stopped and rarely slowed down, no matter what Beck was suggesting. There was a hyper-density to the choreography that I found tiring, and the proceedings were absolutely littered with fancy concert lighting cues. The stage moved well, I mean the organization of things was high-caliber (aside from those cubes so unimaginatively moved to and fro), but every phrase of movement for everyone seemed jam-packed with steps at a regular clip. No one seemed to mind though, for the dancers were outstanding.... All of us went out happy.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago continues its run all this week at the Joyce with this and another program. Program B offers works by McEldowney, Ohad Naharin, another Ezralow piece, "Cor Perdut" and one by the pedigreed Vincent... and of course, all of those fine fine dancers!

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