- Courtesy Todd Rosenberg Photography
- Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong and Jesse Bechard in Petite Mort by Jiří Kylián
When Czech choreographer JirÍ KyliÁn released his series of surreal “black-and-white” ballets for the Nederlands Dans Theater between 1986 and 1991, the main trope was sexual anxiety, and the dancers were sexual prodigies.
In Falling Angels (1989), eight females squirm and tug at their undergarments and become squiggles of sperm that fertilize their own pregnancies; in Sarabande (1990), six males let themselves down by a cord in order to be born and then masturbate until they give birth themselves. And when the men and women finally find each other in the sensual duets in Petite Mort (1991), they aren’t afraid to be sex machines.
Hubbard Street’s spring program nicely offers these three ballets as an answer to the opener, Kylián’s more recent and more conceptually challenging 27’52” (2002). 27’52” absorbs elements of each earlier work—the frantic masklike expressions and hysterical gestures of the men in Sarabande, the unruffled and unemotional temperament of the women in Falling Angels, and the blocking of the stage into rectangles in Petite Mort—but edits out the eroticism. Unisex costumes neuter sexual differences and enforce a sense of alienation that is the source of physical confrontation and violence.
It begins when a man, unprovoked, turns a woman’s body into a gun, pulling one of her feet behind her back with his hands, cocking his foot on her butt, and then kicking her to pull the trigger. The dance itself is like a bomb counting down from the start time of 27 minutes and 52 seconds to the moment when the two dancers are swallowed up by tears in the cosmos, represented by rips in the floor. This is what happens in an absence of sex. Forgoing deaths of a smaller nature, they sink into oblivion.
3/13-3/16, various times, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312-850-9744, hubbardstreetdance.com, $25-$94.