At the Alex Theatre
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Review by Ross Anthony

Four dance pieces comprise this two-intermission show. My particular presentation took place at the very cozy, warm and comfortable Alex Theater in Glendale, California.

Cor perdut (New work in preview- 6 minutes):
Simple, in flesh and rust color cloth against flat black with Middle Eastern sounding music. The male dancers whirl, light reflecting butterfly arms catch my attention, almost mesmerizing. But nothing else captures me.

Super Straight is coming down (12 minutes):
Office people emerge from laundry mat cellophane. White collar shirts and ties, ominous pounding industrial music, they jostle haplessly like stringed puppets. Desperate, mindless, controlled by some unseen machine, caught in the cogs of conformity and corporation, they jerk unnaturally. The man in dreads and full suit twitches painfully, he alone elicits a sense of sympathy from the audience, while the rest jerk on in an unintended imperfect sync. Mauve pants also stands out as an impressive individual dancer, unnatural twisting -- would have liked to see more of that kind of thing. Despite the sync problems, most of the choreography is interesting, especially the floor rolling and "upside down crucifixion" pose. Intentionally evoking the mundane in sound and visual drone, this piece nonetheless goes long.


Atelier (20 minutes):
With all curtains pulled away, this segment takes use of the full empty stage all the way to the structure's back wall. This works very well to emit a feeling of raw, inescapable emptiness. A woman in white gown (a bride?) stumbles freakishly alone, trapped, possessed, floundering like a fish on the pier, she rolls on the wooden stage. For the first time in the entire presentation, I'm feeling a strong emotion. The groom paces to pounding percussion and a penny whistle. The two begin a dance that is interrupted by a third -- a temptress. More or less telling a soap opera tale until the bride is once again alone and reflecting. She turns her back to the audience and watches with us a painful abstract video presentation against some porous curtains. This too goes long, integrating awkwardly. Eventually, a handsome couple appears in shadow behind a curtain and begin a shadow dance. This is one of the first striking visuals (simple as it is) of the show. Sadly, the couple emerges much too soon into the light. I like the music, but the dance, though some moments make impression, leaves me rather unmoved.

Second Intermission/Minus 16 (30 minutes):
Here I find my favorite routine. Lights up, crowd talking amongst themselves, up and around. A single dancer, quietly steps in front of the drawn velvet red curtain and begins a spoof dance. Mocking the disco club, wedding dance floor, male; this dancer, one by one, draws the attention of the distracted crowd. Eventually, perfectly patiently, he improvises and varies his spoof until the entire audience is engaged even with lights up and not a word spoken from his mouth. He's very very amusing, red curtain raises and soon many other silly dancers join him, by now the crowd laughs out loud. Chaplan and even Herman -esque. The now 30 or so dancers suddenly break into an exciting flurry of arm rolls and jump in sync. Finally, lights down. This sequence gives way to a semi-circle of Chicago looking, 40's hat donning, black suit-coat wearing dancers sitting on chairs. From left to right they throw their arms back, bright white shirts chesting out and fall back on the chairs -- they make a wave with their motion that flows from one side of the stage to the other knocking the last dancer off the chair. This "visual lick" becomes the capping end to a powerful pounding motif, however they don't really nail the fluidity of the wave until the fifth run through. I especially like a segment in which all the seated dancer half-rise from their seat while a single one jumps all the way on top of it. I don' t know why, but this visual is striking and provocative -- it's what I expected to see much more of from this company.

Later, a metronome ticks to female dancers, elegant and nicely in sync. Then a sort of audio autobiography that is slightly amusing.

The dancers gather seemingly for the ending bow. Instead they walk off the stage expressionless, into the crowd, they pull a handful of un-expecting "volunteers" from the audience and bring them on stage to reprise their goofy layman dancing. This sets the crowd on fire with laughter. It's fun fresh and alive. Unfortunately, it goes just a tad long and segues awkwardly into a mess of freelance self-expression to techno-pop, then a silly cheerleader-type people structure that makes little sense to me. My suggestion is to take the stage bow with the volunteers and end the show there. Nevertheless and though I did not join them, this audience reacted with a standing ovation and a pounding clap that resonated for at least one full minute.

Alex theatre, January 18th, 2003, Glendale, California.

Artistic Director Jim Vincent.
Choreogrphers: Marguerite Donlon, Nacho Duato, Jiri Kylian, Ohad Naharin.

Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 08:09:09 PDT