Theater, Dance, Comedy and Performance in Chicago

Herd Instinct: Lucas Crandall Invokes a Stampede at Hubbard Street Dance

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Photo: Todd Rosenberg

Photo: Todd Rosenberg

By Irene Hsiao

From its roots as a small tap-dancing studio on the corner of Hubbard and LaSalle, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has become one of the companies that defines contemporary dance on an international scale, presenting works by choreographers that have fundamentally altered the way theatergoers understand movement, including Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin and, recently, William Forsythe. Now in its thirty-eighth season, the company presents a mixed bill of works by Chicago-based dancemakers in its Spring Series at the Harris Theater. The program features former Luna Negra Dance Theater artistic director and Hubbard Street alumnus Gustavo Ramirez Sansano’s homage to ballet revolutionary George Balanchine “I am Mister B,” current Hubbard Street choreographer-in-residence Alejandro Cerrudo’s dramatic 2014 piece “The Impossible,” and a new work for the entire company by long-time Hubbard Street rehearsal director Lucas Crandall. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip/Lucky Plush Productions

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Photo: Cheryl Mann

Photo: Cheryl Mann. Graphic Design: Liviu Pasare

RECOMMENDED

Herding cats. Like most overused metaphors, there’s good reason you hear it thrown around so much. One would be hard-pressed to find any individual who works at a non-profit or mission-driven organization who didn’t regularly shake their head in wonderment at how their coworkers, people who share the same desire to make a positive difference, struggle so hard to reach agreement on what exactly they should be doing and how exactly to do it. How is it possible this meeting has run into hour three? Is so-and-so really going to block consensus again? Aren’t we all on the same team here? The Justice League wouldn’t get mired in wordsmithing their mission statement… they’d be out fighting for justice! Read the rest of this entry »

Art From Mortal Substance: Hamburg Ballet returns to the Harris

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Helene Bouchet and Amilcar Moret Gonzalez in "Othello"

Helene Bouchet and Amilcar Moret Gonzalez in “Othello”

Two years ago, Hamburg Ballet was onstage at the Harris Theater when a stagehand interrupted a dress rehearsal of their production of “Third Symphony of Gustav Mahler, ” an exegesis in movement of Mahler’s forceful tone poem on the passage of time and the possibility of redemption. “I felt I had never seen the company do the work as well,” recalls artistic director and chief choreographer John Neumeier of the moment just before the illustrious company was ejected into the frosty air wearing nothing but practice clothes to escape the fire that would result in the cancellation of their performances. But Chicago has a reputation for renewal after disruptive fires, and its theatergoers will have a second opportunity to see the signature 1973 work when the Hamburg Ballet returns to the Harris Theater February 23-27. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Winter Series/Hubbard Street Dance

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Crystal Pite. Photo: Joris-Jan Jos

Crystal Pite/Photo: Joris-Jan Jos

RECOMMENDED

The show opener of Hubbard Street’s impressive Winter program is “Solo Echo,” a crossover concept from Crystal Pite, who has metabolized a meditation on the evocative, essential reading poetry of Mark Strand. Strand, who died last year, was among the foremost innovators of the “concrete” in contemporary poetry, borrowing in his own crossover practices from painters such as Magritte and others, to whom he attributed the surrealism in his work. Atmospheric, mysterious and playfully entertaining, Strand pairs well with Pite’s own evocative stage-setting choreographies, composing scenes against backgrounds in nature, such as in a coming snowstorm. Following on the recent rage surrounding William Forsythe in Chicago, of whom Pite is an acolyte, and pairing orchestrations of local site-specific energies against this city’s usual background, this performance should prove compelling. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Hubbard Street Dance/Harris Theater

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Photo: Cheryl Mann

Photo: Cheryl Mann

RECOMMENDED

Hubbard Street dedicates their entire fall program to the great William Forsythe, reviving “Quintett,” sinking their chops into all-male quartet “N.N.N.N.” and, most excitingly, “One Flat Thing, reproduced,” the choreographic equivalent of splitting the atom. “One Flat Thing, reproduced” is a piece for fourteen dancers moving through a grid of twenty large rectangular tables, cued not by music, but by an unbelievably intricate system of internal cues: each dancer is triggered by another for a sequence of motions that in turn triggers another one, two, three, half dozen dancers each playing their own part in an endless string of triggers. The ensemble must be highly alert to each other or the machine grinds to a halt. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: A Streetcar Named Desire/Scottish Ballet

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Scottish Ballet

RECOMMENDED

If one had to select the work of a single twentieth-century playwright for translation from spoken language to dance, Tennessee Williams would likely top the list. Brooding, swaggering brutes, swooning waifs, sweltering, grimy back alleys: Williams’ plays seethe with a physicality that draws its characters’ inner life into a world of flesh and sweat. Scottish Ballet, the national ballet company of Scotland, commissioned theater and film director Nancy Meckler and the brilliant choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa as equal collaborators on an evening-length dance interpretation of “Streetcar” that comes to the Harris this May. Dancers learned characterization first and choreography second, building movement from deeply studied motivation. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Hubbard Street Dance/Harris Theater

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The name Gustavo Ramirez Sansano can bring pangs to those who were busy developing an addiction to his work at the helm of Luna Negra Dance Theater, both as artistic director—introducing us to brilliant young voices from Europe—and as choreographer (notably his epic and dreamlike dance interpretation of Bizet’s “Carmen”) when the company regrettably folded in 2013. Happily, Ramirez Sansano has been invited to create a new piece for Hubbard Street’s spring program, a tribute to George Balanchine set to the same Tchaikovsky suite as Balanchine’s famous “Theme and Variations.” Another premiere on the program comes from Crystal Pite, founder and director of Vancouver-based Kidd Pivot. Read the rest of this entry »

Lend Us a Tenor: Brandon Jovanovich Books an Unusual “Passage”

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brandon_jovanovich

Brandon Jovanovich/Photo: Kristen Hoebermann

Brandon Jovanovich has played heroic tenor roles here and around the world but this month is revealing two other sides of himself: playing the role of Walter, a German diplomat and husband of a former Auschwitz guard in “The Passenger,” the rediscovered Holocaust opera by Mieczyslaw Weinberg at Lyric Opera, and singing diverse material of his own choosing on Harris Theater’s final “Beyond the Aria” recital of the season with soprano Amber Wagner and Ryan Center baritone Will Liverman on March 10.

“It’s a heck of a piece,” says Jovanovich of “The Passenger” in his Lyric dressing room, with scores for oratorios he is also working on visible on the piano. “There is a lot of jazz in it, some swing, there’s some funk happening there. There is some dissonance but it is also transparent in a lot of spots. It’s important to let the music speak for itself and not work against it. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Alonzo King LINES Ballet/Harris Theater

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LINES-Meyer

RECOMMENDED

The power, reedy elegance and remarkable precision of LINES Ballet returns to the Harris in two weeknight programs. On Wednesday, the San Francisco-based company participates in the Harris’ wallet-friendly happy-hour series Eat + Drink to the Beat, performing King’s nod to ballet history and the emergence of neoclassicism, “Concerto for Two Violins,” along with his newest work “Shostakovich.” Thursday evening is a full program that includes the gorgeous, technically intricate and emotionally transcendent “Writing Ground,” set to music from various religious traditions and inspired by the poetry of Colum McCann. Read the rest of this entry »

Preview: Restless Creature/Wendy Whelan

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Photo courtesy Christopher Duggan

Photo: Christopher Duggan

RECOMMENDED

Two years ago, in an extended interview with Alejandro Cerrudo about the premiere of his first evening-length work, the conversation momentarily turned to a side project he had been invited to choreograph for. The Chicago performance wasn’t yet announced so Cerrudo asked me to keep it quiet, but the resident choreographer for Hubbard Street couldn’t help but gush a little with excitement; he was clearly starstruck. “She’s so incredibly nice and down to earth,” he said. “And, I mean, she’s Wendy Whelan.” Read the rest of this entry »