Julia Rhoads Credit: Holly DeGarmo

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago rarely plays for laughs, but when it does it can be a lot of fun. (Case in point: 2014’s The Art of Falling, the company’s megapopular collaboration with Second City, which was reprised last year.) Hubbard Street’s latest crack at humor comes courtesy of Julia Rhoads, founding artistic director of Chicago’s Lucky Plush Productions.
Rhoads is one of four female choreographers featured in Hubbard Street’s Danc(e)volve: New Works Festival this week at the MCA, and if history is any indication, her first foray with the company—a world premiere titled Cadence—promises to be a delightfully witty affair. Her last production for Lucky Plush, Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of Superstrip, imagined a group of has-been superheroes finding redemption at a nonprofit think tank. The Queue, from 2014, took place at an airport in which passengers stumbled aimlessly into each other’s lives, a smart blend of slapstick and dance.

In Cadence, the secret is in a lot of performer-generated sounds, a mix of dialogue, singing, instrumentation, and whispering that makes up the live score. “I’m really interested in the voice, in a way that’s in service of the work instead of being an experiment,” Rhoads says. “It’s been fun to see what I can do with the languages I play with.” Rhoads brought in sound designer Michael Caskey and vocal specialist Bethany Clearfield, who worked with the Hubbard Street dancers to hone their speaking skills. The prompt for everyone: “Why does anyone start talking, or singing, or dancing, and what’s the logic of moving from one thing to another?”

“A lot of the humor,” Rhoads continues, “is born out of actual relationships and setting up expectations, then subverting expectations.”
Three additional pieces—Clan(device) by current company member Alice Klock, Berceuse by former company member Penny Saunders, and Cloudline, another world premiere, devised by Robyn Mineko Williams, another Hubbard Street alum—complete the program.

Danc(e)volve: New Works Festival 5/10-5/14: Wed-Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 3 and 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago, 312-280-2660, hubbardstreetdance.com, $65.