Cooling Winds of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Jacob’s Pillow
“As the Wind Blows” (2022)
From the Windy City, a new dance blew after a dramatically quiet start. In a dark silence as the lights came on, five men stood in silhouette before an orange screen. From a subtle start, set to Claude Debussy’s sinuous Syrinx for solo flute, their outstretched arms and fingers stretched out in an extraordinary display of male physicality, with flowing floor work turning into leaps and lifts, their astonishing agility defying the forces of nature.
The music, too, intensified as a jazzy portion of Aaron Copland’s Four Piano Blues and the wild back-and-forth of Francesco Tristano’s two-piano “Soft Shell Groove” echoed through the theatre, dancers swirled and leapt in explosive delight.
Set to an otherworldly electronic rearrangement of Ravel’s expansive orchestral masterpiece, “Bolero,” this dance by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin features two women who transform the vast stage into an atmospheric pool of clouds, sky and sea. water, musically symbolized in composer Isao Tomita adorning the familiar propulsive rhythmic ostinato of “Bolero” with synthetic chromatic waves, crashes and compressions that squeeze, diminish, drip, vaporize and eventually vanish into the ether. At the 1, 2, 3, 4 of the pounding tom-tom they magically synchronize, with slow, nervous arm movements brought to human life with lively swimming gestures and rapturous crossings of the vast stage, their tight blue sheaths up to the knees metamorphosing from fish skins to bird feathers.
After a first intermission, a suite, choreographed by Lar Lubovitch, for three male dancers, on excerpts from Robert Schumann’s Symphonic Studies, Opus 13, for piano, interpreted by Murray Perahia.
From passages of calm contemplation in the Schumann, to its expressions of desperate sadness, then to its violent virtuoso variations and sudden chromatic transpositions, Elliot Hammans, Shota Miyoshi and David Schultz imbued their folds, groundwork and miraculous leaps with a deep, relevant emotion.
After the second intermission, “BUSK” (2009), choreographed and directed by Aszure Barton.
Set to a suite of music incorporating themes of religious village ritual, Russian folk music and contemporary Scandinavian jazz-influenced instrumental ensembles, this work used powerful lighting and stage effects, designed by Nicole Pearce, and extraordinary Michelle Jank costumes that limited, inhibited, and expressed the desperation and sense of community that held together the spirits of public alms-seekers and framed in their abandonment their individual excursions of humor and sexuality.
Here are two of the musical arrangements that capture the meaning of dance, “Saltarelle, Op. 74″, a choral work, originally composed by Camille Saint-Saens, in an idiomatic Swedish male choir arrangement, reminiscent of Carl Orff’s “Carmina Burana”, by Christer Solen, Staffan Sandlund and Eric Ericson, and ” Love Potion, Expired”, with lively and sultry Russian folk and jazz elements from Llova (aka Lev Zhurbin), viola virtuoso and conductor.
“BUSK” began with a seated group of men and women dressed in bulky black pajamas, jackets and balaclavas. A single figure wearing white gloves emerged from the group, pulled down his hood and put on a black fedora in its place. Taking it off, turning it on, and flipping it up and down, he began a delicious mime, mouthing without uttering a syllable as his gesticulations and gestures mimicked those of Charlie Chaplin. When the audience laughed in appreciation, he put his index finger to his mouth and said out loud, “Shhhhh!” before rejoining the group.
To the music of a village ritual, the ensemble formed a straight line, stretching to the back of the stage, where there was a four-step prop, on which a male dancer stepped to at the top and extended his arms dramatically at 90 degrees, forming the horizontal elements of a cross, as his colleagues formed in their line its vertical component.
Later in the performance, the prop reappeared, with a fully clothed dancer rising heavily to its peak before – suddenly – falling into a somersault, leaping upright towards the center of the stage.
In this, and other brilliant gymnastics-inspired leaps and twirls, appearing effortless despite the bulky coats, the group of alms-seekers clung together, watching the action with often happy and tender expressions. . There they are in quiet contemplation, even as the music vigorously propels the performers in front of them.
On one occasion, they all looked up, mouths wide open, and shockingly turned to each other and licked a partner’s lips.
In another explicitly sexualized outburst, a dancer stood up, ran furiously towards the front of the group as she stripped off her cape and hood and threw them to the floor, breaking into a startlingly suggestive dance in pants and bra -throat.
This raises inevitable questions, which are certainly relevant to the current feminization of poverty: should it sell itself in the absence of sufficient opportunity or the gifts of an affluent society? And/or does society stifle his individuality and sexuality?
A particularly impressive physique was displayed by Shota Miyoshi, who curled up on his knees and strode across the stage, while maintaining a stable, balanced torso and extended arms.
At the end, stripped of their baggy attire, the cast clapped together as the music escalated into meter and jazzy cross beats. Stepping forward to center stage, they formed a graceful horizontal line, smiling and bowing to the audience as they stood in awe and shouted thanks.