Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Summer Series performed at the Harris Theater June 6 through 9 was a sleek and futuristic vision: two recent ensemble pieces by Harris’s first choreographer in residence, Brian Brooks, and HSDC’s first and former resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo bookending two 2010 duets by Canadian phenom Crystal Pite. Costuming throughout was democratic, androgynous, and virtually anonymous: everyone wore pants, not a frill to be seen, and not much color either. The company was in fine fettle, clean, sharp, and cool as a titanium machine.
Brooks’s The Loss of Place, a revision of his Terrain (commissioned by the Harris in 2016), began with bodies in a line down the depth of the stage, everyone in white, facing back, slowing unfurling in canon to the floor. It’s an image that recalls Eadweard Muybridge’s experiments photographing motion, as if one could slow a single body as it falls and chart at each point in time its trajectory against its position. An exploration of such effects of photographic technology, past and present, seems to structure the work, creating blur and stop-motion, fragmentation and duplication, as the dancers fall, run, and jump in movements reminiscent of Paul Taylor and JoséLimón. The minimalism is quietly mesmerizing, a galaxy as it turns.
A similar attentiveness to the aesthetic of the camera also informs the Pite works A Picture of You Falling and The Other You, performed in a semicircular enclosure created by light trees, each with a single light on top glowing like an eye. A voice (Kate Strong) narrates A Picture of You Falling with the clinical distance of a crime scene investigation and the obsessiveness of traumatic memory, dissecting bodies (“This is your hand” “This is your back” “Knees, hips, hands, elbows, head”), describing an unseen space (a desk, a bed, a window to the left) where something specific and unspecified has occurred (“This is the sound of your heart hitting the floor”). On opening night, Craig D. Black transformed the body into a series of snapshots, presenting every angle of a man as he collapses, as a woman, Ana Lopez, orbits the stage and retreats, impassive to his condition or destiny.
The Other You, danced brilliantly by Michael Gross and Andrew Murdock, closed the view down further, starting where Picture ended, with a man on the floor, limp and boneless, trying to pick himself up off the floor with the motions of a puppeteer. He encounters his mirror image, and a game of dominance and submission begins. The work is violent, the personages subject not only to each other but also to forces that momentarily possess and then abandon each body—not only vectors of movement that shoot joints and limbs into broken positions with impossible speed but also the sudden urge to bark like a dog, a sort of diminished werewolf.
Cerrudo’s Out of Your Mind, created in 2018, brings the ensemble out as a serpentine body that fractures into quicksilver duets (danced notably well by Gross and Connie Shiau), seamless and swift, seeming to skim more than meet, as a voice-over speaks of dreams, as if to say that the rules for contact have advanced past the sense of touch. v