Hubbard Street Dance makes its annual Overture Hall appearance on Feb. 28. Chicago's best-known company has major mainstream appeal. I've seen people near tears at a sellout. Despite the downturn, Hubbard Street's loyal local fans will probably fill the theater.
Artistic director Jim Vincent, who's led the troupe into the 21st century, tied the company tightly to Nederlands Dans Theater, with which he formerly performed. Both outfits turn out high-gloss, ballet-based contemporary dance. Their repertories are stocked with Euro-chic works by Nederlands in-house dance maker Jiri Kylian and his close associates Nacho Duarto, who currently leads Spain's Compañia Nacional de Danza, and Tel Aviv-based Batsheva Dance Company's artistic director Ohad Naharin.
So the news flash late last week that Vincent's been named Nederlands' new artistic director was no great surprise. This is Hubbard Street's last Madison show in its current configuration - not that I expect Vincent's departure to be a huge turning point. He's leaving behind several young in-house artists who've emerged in the company's choreographers' workshops. One is Alejandro Cerrudo, who danced with Nederlands II before joining Hubbard Street in 2005. His 2006 piece "Lickety Split," a pas de six to an indie folk track, is on the bill on Saturday.
"Lickety Split" is the first of three Cerrudo works now in Hubbard Street's repertory. "Alejandro's still developing his own voice," Vincent says, "but for the youngster he is - I think he just turned 28 - 'Lickety Split' is an incredibly crafted work. It's about his colleagues as much as him. He let the dancers influence his style - it's a collective effort, and a piece that gets to the core of what the company's all about."
Also on tap is a new work by Johan Inger, another Nederlands alum and former artistic head of Sweden's Culberg Ballet. "Walking Mad" is set to Ravel's "Bolero." "It has a great sense of humor," Vincent says. "It takes unexpected turns - it's very human. It gives the dancers a chance to do character studies instead of just dance. It's a very demanding work to perform."
The program closes with Naharin's poppy "Minus 16," the only dance on this bill we've seen here before. "We have some new works I'd have liked to include, but we're traveling with half the company for the first time, which limits what we can do," Vincent says. "Like every other arts organization in the States, we're dealing with implosions. We reduced the company for this tour as a temporary solution to the economic crisis."
I'm not disappointed. The crowd-pleasing "Minus 16," with its audience-participation cha-cha-cha, has been Hubbard Street's signature finale under Vincent's direction. It's the perfect wrap-up for this show.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Overture Hall, Saturday, Feb. 28, 8 pm