Review: Hubbard Dancers Astound, Impress

Jan. 13, 2019 | By Bruce R. Feldman

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, The Wallis, Jan. 10-12, 2019

In Brief: Absorbing choreography bursting with ideas and creativity, virtuoso yet unaffected dancing, and masterful musicianship – this impressive company sets a very high bar for dance troupes everywhere.

The program of five short works that Hubbard Street Dance brought to The Wallis over the weekend offered a stimulating display of artistry that enthralled the large, appreciative audience on the final night that I attended.

The Third Coast Percussion quartet joined the company on the first half of the program. They opened with a brief musical prelude, a gently undulating Devonté Hynes composition performed on two vibraphones, along with various drums and bells.

Teddy Forance’s “Everything Must Go” with Hubbard Street Dance and David Skidmore of Third Coast Percussion (Photo: Kevin Parry)

This was followed by the West Coast premieres of two fine new ballets, noteworthy at first because the four musicians remained on stage to accompany the dancers.

“For All Its Fury” was a thoughtful, persuasive work for eight dancers who executed by the young choreographer Emma Portner's angular movements cleanly while managing not to appear robotic.

The same eight dancers appeared in the more fluid second premiere, Teddy Forance’s “Everything Must Go.”

Hynes’s scores for the two ballets and prelude were minimalistic, yet seductively appealing and hypnotic in the style of a Philip Glass composition.

The slightest work on the bill, “Pacopepepluto,” consisted of solos for three male dancers set to “That’s Amore” and other Dean Martin pop songs of the 1950s and ‘60s. Why choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo chose to celebrate Dino wasn’t clear, and the work didn’t seem to suggest anything other than the fun and exuberant athleticism each scantily clad dancer brought to his solo.

(From left) Hubbard Street dancers Kellie Epperheimer, Jacqueline Burnett, Adrienne Lipson, Alicia Delgadillo, and Rena Butler in Ignore (Photo: Kevin Parry)

Ohad Naharin’s “Ignore” was the evening’s standout. As much a theater piece as a ballet, it’s a fully realized synthesis of quirky, sharp repetitive group movement, a spare score by Arvo Part, and a provocative spoken text by Charles Bukowski.

“Ignore all possible concepts and possibilities,” he wrote. The dispassionate female narrator repeats this line over and over, each time adding new admonitions, such as “make money but don’t work too hard” or “don’t smoke too much but drink enough to relax.”

The dancers, too, repeat their movements over and over, adding a new phrase with each new line. They then regroup in a different part of the stage before starting all over again. The cumulative effect was gripping.

The final ballet of the night was inspired by the Mark Strand poem “Lines for Winter.” Seven dancers performed Crystal Pite’s moving meditation on death, set to sonatas by Brahms, with soulful eloquence.

No matter what they were called on to do, the Hubbard Street dancers astonished throughout with their effortless precision, strength, eloquence, and cohesion.

Let’s hope that The Wallis brings this wonderful group back frequently.

Hubbard Street Dance, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills, (310) 746-4000, www.thewallis.org