Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

The title of Jiri Kylian’s 1991 Petite Mort is of course a euphemism for orgasm–an oblique but striking literary term for something pondered often but seldom discussed. Kylian aims for that combination of tasteful and potent in this piece for six couples, now receiving its Hubbard Street premiere–though you wouldn’t know it from the swords the men brandish in the opening sequence, which are perhaps not the most subtle visual metaphor. The choreographer has a campy side, evident in his comic Sechs Tanze, a loopy dance that’s become a Hubbard Street favorite. It too features swords–and the ball gowns on wheels that also embellish Petite Mort, suggesting armored tanks as the ladies make their conquests. But most of Petite Mort takes place in the bedroom, not the ballroom, and is anything but kitschy: ceremonial poses, intricate partnering, and lush stagecraft give it a certain statuesque heft. By comparison Harrison McEldowney’s duet Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (receiving its downtown premiere) is a feather. The dancing is thoroughly enjoyable, loose and slippery, but the attitudes are a little stale, relying on cliches of male and female behavior–he’s late, she nags. When the man and woman reconcile in the end, we don’t for a minute believe in their love. These two pieces kick off two of the three programs in Hubbard Street’s current engagement; see listing for a detailed schedule. Through Sunday, April 16, at the Shubert Theatre, 22 W. Monroe; $15-$50. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 312-977-1710 for rates on groups of 15 or more and subscriptions.

–Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/William Frederking.