Review: Hubbard Street Dance peers into cold distance with a mechanical edge that belies a sense of elegance.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago gave Twin Cities audiences a glimpse of the future in Saturday night’s world premiere of “Fluence” by Robyn Mineko Williams at the State Theatre. As the highlight of a strong program by the 36-year-old contemporary dance troupe, this piece stood out for its techno-cool elegance as well as many well-designed movement and musical subtleties.
Williams, who performed with Hubbard Street for 12 years, hints at a society in which every thought and motion is controlled — but by whom (or what) remains unclear. Set to a post-punk-inspired score by Robert F. Haynes, the work relies upon the sort of dancing one might expect in a dystopia: regimented, edgy, alert.
But Williams is most interested in revealing how the perceived order is disintegrating through a hitch in a dancer’s gait or moments of emotional softness. Like renowned international choreographer William Forsythe, who in his works constantly reorients the viewer toward new perspectives, Williams peels away the complexities of movement mechanics to keep her stark and potent vision intact in “Fluence.”
The evening also featured two works from Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. “Little Mortal Jump” (2012) cultivates a vaudevillian tone at first but later detours into a darker and more intriguing place in which the sliding movements of the dancers were so smooth and seamless it was as if they were performing on ice skates.
“PACOPEPEPLUTO” (2011) is Cerrudo’s cheekier (literally) work. On Saturday, Johnny McMillan, David Schultz and Jonathan Fredrickson (wearing dance belts only) played against the cool-guy legacy of Dean Martin’s songs with enthusiastic romping, shimmying and virtuosic dancing. They proved, convincingly, that masculinity has more than one ideal.
Mats Ek’s “Casi-Casa” (2011) is an amalgam of two earlier works, which explains why it has such a split personality. At times the piece comes off as playful, but more often it delves into domestic angst, particularly prevalent at the State in a powerful duet between Ana Lopez and Cerrudo with a smoking stove in the background. But just as the mood settles, Ek introduces incongruent surprises into the mix, such as a quartet about discontent using vacuum cleaner props and Scottish dance elements. There’s much to admire in this relationship-driven work but it also comes off as thematically and emotionally choppy. Sometimes simpler is better.
Caroline Palmer writes regularly about dance.