The Gnawa are a Sufi people brought from sub-Saharan Africa to what is now Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia to work as slaves. But the term also refers to healers–often but not always members of this ethnic group–who use ceremonies of music and dance to induce a trance state and facilitate communication with the spirit world. In its continuing quest for international resonance under the direction of Jim Vincent, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has commissioned Gnawa, an ensemble work from Spanish choreographer Nacho Duato, that uses these songs (here by Hassan Hakmoun and Adam Rudolph). While part of the dance is set to softer, more romantic music that includes sounds from nature (“Carauri” by Juan Arteche), most of it is driven by the propulsive percussion and eerie singing of African-influenced Mediterranean music: in fact, Duato built this work on an earlier piece, Mediterranea. The lyrical duet at its center is set up by the piece’s opening, in which a couple runs in slow motion, traversing a crowd walking slowly downstage; neither couple nor crowd seems to notice the other. As always, the delight of Duato’s work is its musicality, its alternating daring and stillness. Gnawa appears on program A with the Chicago premiere of Lucas Crandall’s Gimme and two works premiered last year, Christopher Bruce’s Rooster (set to early Rolling Stones tunes) and Brian Enos’s Diphthong. Program B features the world premiere of former Chicagoan Lar Lubovitch’s Love Stories and the Chicago premiere of Ohad Naharin’s Tabula Rasa; I was able to see only its second and final section, which like his Minus 16 seems to be about nonconformity. Also on that program are revivals of Vincent’s Counter/part and Daniel Ezralow’s SF/LB. Program C includes Gnawa, Rooster, and the Chicago premiere of William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure. Program A: Wed 3/30, 7:30 PM; Fri-Sat 4/1-4/2, 8 PM; Sun 4/3, 2 and 7 PM. Program B: Wed-Thu 4/6-4/7, 7:30 PM; Sat 4/9, 8 PM; Sun 4/10, 3 PM. Program C: Wed-Thu 4/13-4/14, 7:30 PM; Fri-Sat 4/15-4/16, 8 PM; Sun 4/17, 3 PM. Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, 800-882-4275. $20-$75. Note: Upcoming events include “Bold Moves for Bold Women” Wed 3/30, reception at 5 PM; $80-$95 for the reception and following performance. And there’s a first-ever “Student Night” Sun 4/3, 7 PM; $10-$37.50 with a valid student ID.

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