Hubbard Street Dance Chicago kicks off its 46th season with a trio of works at the Harris Theater this weekend.
Last in the main event comes “Return to Patience,” a company premiere that officially debuts Canadian-American choreographer Aszure Barton. three-year artistic residency. Loyal viewers will discover that they have seen the other works of this weekend series, collectively titled “Peace,” several times before. It opens with Darrell Grand Moultrie’s “The Journey’s Dilemma” and intersperses Lar Lubovitch’s “Coltrane’s Favorite Things.”
The program is a neat three-piece showcasing what audiences know about artistic director Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell’s key priorities: commitment to North American choreographers, a wide range of styles, and accessibility. And he’d probably say that all that repetition was about cultivating new audiences, deepening the dancer’s lineup by changing roles in the company, and marinating each piece in a way that developed its flavors and tannins. Maybe. This is also probably about fiscal responsibility; Fisher-Harrell essentially began building a new repertoire from scratch for the company, which was in disarray come 2021.
Whatever the reason, I’m also glad to see it “Duality” And “Koltrane” again – and we’re ready to be done with them for a while. Moultrie’s “Duality” hits a different place at the beginning of the night; this defies convention, starting with a bold, exuberant piece and moving towards Barton’s more subdued delivery. Created in 2022 with a suite of voices from Ezio Bosso, Shostakovich, V. Michael McKay, and Donald Lawrence, this dance chapter book oscillates between full-fledged ensemble works and standout solos and duets; Each episode isn’t completely connected to the last, but somehow it all comes together like chicken and waffles. It took about half the piece for the company to relax and adjust, but many moments rose to the surface Thursday night. Morgan Clune has emerged as someone worth watching in just her second season. Here he is given the magnificent backstage solo and pas de deux With Elliot Hammans in the middle of the piece – an unusually beautiful duet created on and usually reserved for master dancers Jacqueline Burnett and David Schultz. Abdiel Figueroa Reyes personifies the piece’s signature solo as only he can: he shudders and shakes in a church revival-like revelry, then hits a random turn or extension with pinpoint precision.
“Coltrane’s Favorite Things” suits this company well and is an especially good chance to spot two more outstanding dancers. Alexandria Best and Shota Miyoshi are small in stature but make a big impact; they fling their bodies across the stage like streams of paint onto the gray and mustard Jackson Pollock painting that inspired the piece. With the painting in the background and John Coltrane’s cover of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Favorite Things” filling the sonic space between bodies, Lubovitch’s three-dimensional love note to two mid-century geniuses he created in 2010 has grown more beautiful with age.
“Return to Patience,” shot in 2015 for the Juilliard School, is in some ways an antidote to Barton’s 2009 “Busk.” success of power it’s become a thing signature piece for Hubbard Street.
That may or may not be a fair comparison, but it’s natural, since “Busk” is the only interaction most Hubbard Street viewers have had with Barton’s work thus far. This track – moody, sarcastic and relentless intensity – is the yin to the yang of “Patience’s Return”. Lighted in bright white and costumed by Nicole Pearce and Fritz Masten respectively, this new-for-them full company piece is less cluttered and more laid back in both dance and design.
This doesn’t mean he isn’t rich or solid; Barton speaks volumes with his white-on-white palette and restrained choreographic hand. Dancers spend some time in stillness or rocking between the heels and heels of their feet. In this collective silence, composer Caroline Shaw’s “Gustave Le Gray” for solo piano is front and center. Barton seems to have considered every keystroke of this extraordinary score, but he does not pick out every note. A single soreness forces the dancers to move their feet sharply from parallel to the first position, bending one knee, then the other; the fourth clues them into delicate balancing on one leg, indicating what yogis will recognize as Warrior Three. It’s so simple, I’m almost borrowing it “Serenade” by George Balanchine. It’s also impossibly difficult for the dancers, who are exceptional in every way, but are not immune to the occasional wobbles and wobbles that inevitably come with something so exposed.
This simmers away until periodically single dancers rise to the surface in hard-edged, moody solos and small groups – but it’s all temporary. They return to patience and tranquility, so to speak. Even though “Return to Patience” was made years before the pandemic, its antiseptic structure and slow boiling reminded me of those three years. They dance mostly together but often apart from each other; They oscillate between moodiness, loneliness, collective empathy and apathy.
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Taken together, “Busk” and “Return to Patience” make it clear why Barton and Hubbard Street are so good for each other. Both are jobs that Hubbard Street can do better than anyone else — but they don’t belong to them. Barton’s residency doesn’t have strict rules about if or when he’ll create something new, but his winter series at the Museum of Contemporary Art is scheduled to wrap up its world premiere by February. We can only say that we are all anxiously awaiting what he will do on and for Hubbard Avenue; This will require a little more patience.
Lauren Warnecke is a freelance critic.
Review: “Of Peace” by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (3 stars)
When: Sunday until 3 p.m.
Where: Harris Music and Dance Theatre, 205 E. Randolph St.
Duration: 1 hour 50 minutes, with two breaks
Tickets: $55-$110 at 312-334-7777 and hubbardstreetdance.com.