Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 15, 2022

REVIEW: Jacob’s Pillow, “Hubbard Street Dance Chicago”

Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, MA
through August14, 2022
by Josephine Sarnelli

The program notes written by Maura Keefe, a Scholar-in-Residence at Jacob’s Pillow start off with: “Forty-four years ago, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago gave its first performance at a senior center home.”  In addition to reminding the reader of this incredible group’s humble roots, it offers hope to every aspiring local and regional dance troupe.  Although it has only been under the artistic direction of Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell since 2021, the extraordinary performance quality, innovation and energy that audiences have come to expect is clearly still there.

Photo by Danica Paulo
As The Wind Blows, a new choreography, started off the program set to four pieces of music, varying from Copeland’s piano to Debussy’s flute to Tristano’s contemporary piano music.  In addition to being disjunct in its musicality, there was an awkward emotional solo amid the high-energy segments that seemed out of place.  The subtle off-stage change in the dancers’ jazz pants and footwear from red to grey midway during the production seemed without explanation.  The 14 dancers performed very well as a group, in solos and as couples.  The backlighting to the stage was very effective in highlighting each dancer’s form without being distractive.

The B/olero duet was executed with precision by Jacqueline Burnett and Simone Stevens.  It can best be described as “quirky,” from Isao Tomita’s electronic version of Ravel’s work to the dancers’ repetitive and somewhat mechanical movements.  Both the music and choreography became hypnotic until one dancer or the other would break away in an attempt at individuality

Schumann’s Symphonic Etude, Opus 13 was the catalyst for Little Rhapsodies.  The three male dancers offered outstanding solos and duets, in addition to performing as a trio.  This showcased their individual talents as well teamwork.  There was a comical element to the choreography; the dancers’ connectivity with each other and to the audience radiated this lightheartedness.  The stunning leaps and turns clearly expressed masculinity, yet never sacrificed grace and fluidness.

A dark street was the setting for BUSK, with the entire troupe garbed as hobos in hooded jackets and baggy pants.  “To busk” is to perform or entertain in the street for monetary donations and thus explains the clever name for this work.  The opening solo was almost mime-like with the addition of white gloves.  The soloist’s triple turns were magnificent and set a high benchmark for this piece.  The eight musical scores chosen for the routine were unique and outstanding in themselves. The Swedish Ett Bondbrollop (A Peasant Wedding) and Plume by Ljova were perfect for the group dances.  Amusements by Daniel Belanger, with it tap like percussive, was ideal for a solo.  Several times during this work the 14-member ensemble humorously metamorphosized into a single organism and seamlessly returned as individuals.

The lengthy standing ovation was very well deserved.  So ended another evening with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to be remembered and savored. With that came the anticipatory longing to see them again … very soon.