Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Hubbard Street Dance Company

Welcome to my first blog!

With this being the first, allow me to set the scene for this review. I get tickets to Joyce Theater performances weeks if not months in advance and arbitrarily picking what performance I want to see based on their descriptions in the catalog. OK, I'm a native New Yorker and there is no better artistic city than here. So while I would like to keep an open mind regarding the performance of a dance company from outside of New York-that doesn't quite work-I expect on OK performance with higher expectations set for performances from New York based companies. Well let me say that the performance I saw last night made me want to jot down my thoughts in the Playbill during the pauses and intermission and want to run home to create this blog. The Hubbard Street Dance Company is a must see. They are performing at the Joyce through August 20th.

Yesterday's performance was Program A which featured:

SF/LB (New York Premiere),
Gimme (New York Premiere),
Love Stories (New York Premiere), and
GNAWA (New York Premiere)
As the performances went on, the more impressed I became with the company. So let's start with SF/LB by choreographer Daniel Ezralow.

The ensemble opened the show in silhouette, then as the lights came on, I see they are dressed in suits and ties facing the audience. Split into three rows they jumped in their place and over the next several minutes the lines merged together then split apart again (still jumping) as the ensemble start jumping to the side, around each other back and forth and every-which-way then more choreography is eased in with spins, more interaction between dancers, and dancers rolling around on the floor. The group starts to break up and come on in pairs, smaller groups and such. Then you notice when a dancer appears on the stage again, their tie is off, then after another few minutes, the jackets come off. Towards the end of the piece the cast comes back together on stage, jumping resumes with a smaller portion of choreography and then it ends with the dancers collapsing to the ground.

From the audience there was scattered giggling. It was amusing and intriguing...couldn't help but imagine the people I encounter wearing suits jumping in their place on that stage like little kids. Now that I think about, having that dynamic may have been meant to take those 'stuffy' business types and have them act like kids with all the energy in the world and just having fun-enough fun that they collapse in exhaustion...very interesting Daniel!

Now Gimme with choreography by Lucas Crandall:

For the first two minutes or so, there's no music and the two dancers are on center stage in silhouette both holding on to the ends of a string. He pulls, she stumbles back then goes back to her starting position. He pulls again and she reacts the same way. He pulls again, she stiffens up. He pulls again and she doesn't react and the dance begins. Since the first few minutes there's no music, their squeaky boots are the course of sound as they stomp and maneuver their way around the stage. The lights slowly come on and the music starts which is a string instrumental. At several points in the performance either one of the dancers lets go of the string then recaptures it. The piece ends as the dancer sit front stage center facing each other, both with the ends of the string in their months (the guy was doing most of the chewing) as the string becomes more taunt. Closer and closer they become and he pulls her in for a kiss-then the lights go out. It was a sweet rendition of the memorable spigitte scene from "Lady and the Tramp."

Here's Love Stories with choreographer Lar Lubovitch:

To the sounds of jazz music, this is the story of love told in 5 movements from the realization of how important and special it is to how it can hurt when it doesn't work out. The first movement starts with the cast of three couples dancing together in a circle-nothing special happening-and then a male dancer dressed in white enters and does his thing to the interpretation of the lyrics of "Nature Boy" by Tobin Del Cuore and Ensemble. This when the couples realize how important love is and exit which begins the 3 movements that feature each of the 3 couples all of which starts and ends with the couple center stage with a spotlight on them. I liked out the movements were only a few minutes long otherwise that would have been a lot to sit through. It was enough to pay attention and appreciate the lyrics of the song and the dancers and still look forward to the next movement.

The 2nd movement with the music of "The More I Have You" by Charlaine Katsuyoshi and Jay Franke (a still is in the picture above) is very energetic and lovely. About half way through their performance, the woman is center stages striking flirty poses as the guy dances around her. This performance had a very innocent and sweet feel.

The 3rd movement was to the music of "Prelude to a Kiss" by Cheryl Mann and Patrick Simoniello. The choreography for this piece was very intimate/sensual as well as clean and simple. Like the first two movements, the dance interpreted the lyrics very well. The guy was a bit sloppy at one point when he was preparing to lift her (and note I was in the last row of the theater) I heard his hand slap her leg-geez I felt that. And there was a point then they were to interlock their arms with their backs to each other and that took an additional attempt. Besides that, it was well done.

The 4th movement was to the music of "Everytime We Say Goodbye" by Taryn Kaschock and Issac Spencer. It starts with the impression that the couple has just (or about to ) break up. Slowly they walk to each other and begin to dance. The choreography is very subtle and poignant since I just broke up with a guy. It ends with the two dancers center stage with the spotlight on them. The guy holds out his hand, the woman hesitates but then extends her hand to meet his but snaps his hand back and walks away, she's then alone on stage and starts to crouch to the follow shaking-a very interesting sequence.

The music used for the last movement was "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" by Tobin Del Cuore and Ensemble. "Nature Boy" begins this last movement and one by one, the couple join him on stage. Everyone seems happy and in a way, grateful to the guy in white. Though towards the end the couples are in three corners of the stage with "Nature Boy" in the center. The couples are in an embrace...then the guys walk away while the women remain in their positions. One by one, the woman unfreeze and dance with guy in white then exit the stage. When the last woman exits, the guy ends up in center stage, on his knees with the spotlight on him. Very interesting piece in a way saying, all good things must come to an end.

Lastly, there's GNAWA with choreography by Nacho Duato:

In a word, this was incredible. I loved the music used for this "Ma 'bud Allah" written by Hassan Hakmoun and Adam Rudolph. GNAWA is in three movements.

In the first, the cast in on stage with two in the middle (woman and man) in different costume 'gliding' through the cast straight to the back of the stage and behind the curtain to the sound of a stream. Then the beautiful beats begin and the cast starts the choreography very well coordinated to the beats.

The second movement features those two dancers that glided off stage at the beginning of the piece to the sounds of a stream. That same sound is used as their intro and exit for this movement. The music used is a bit more mellow as they dance together.

In the last piece, the cast one by one brings out a candle in a beautiful holder and slowly places their candles along the edge of the stage. The energetic music used in the first piece plays again and the two dancers from the previous movement again appear and disappear behind the back stage curtain. As the piece was concluding, the thought that came to mind was that the precision of the dancers and the beats of the music was reminiscent of Alvin Ailey and I consider that a great compliment. This piece was truly breathtaking and draws you in where it feels like a minute has gone by and you haven't blinked. The audience roared in applause at the conclusion of this piece and gave the dancers a standing ovation--well deserved!

Here's the tour schedule for the rest of 2005 and 2006

Next dance performance to be reviewed: Jennifer Muller/THE WORKS October 1st