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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

November 24, 2013

One Thousand Pieces

Reviewed November 23, 2013

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

Photograph by Todd Rosenberg

Photograph by Todd Rosenberg

One Thousand Pieces, by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s resident choreographer, is an admirable harmonic work of moving art.

Created in three parts by Alejandro Cerrudo in celebration of the company’s 35th anniversary in 2012, the first two parts are particularly outstanding and are interspersed with cleverly creative moments: for example, the work opens with a suit-clad Jonathan Fredrickson hanging from the curtain as it rises; and during an interlude, suspended on a ceiling hook, Fredrickson “walks” mid-air as he tells a “beautiful and bold old old story of love” about a couple sitting close together on a park bench “holding hands in the moonlight.”

Part II opens on a breathtaking picturesque set that looks like a rain-drenched streetscape, with three pillars of “steam” rising from a glistening floor. As the dancers scoop, slide and sweep through the wet surface, their bodies squeak and droplets splash up into the dark painterly space.

Overall, the 90-minute work has a deep, moody theme. Michael Korsch’s magnificent and precise lighting design is sharp, sculpting the bodies of the 21 dancers, emphasizing their athletic musculature and forming a pleasing contrast between supple, warm flesh and the cold, hard set of large, moving reflective panels, which slide across the stage or hang above it.

The movement is beyond skilful. It’s beautiful, changing pace from movement to movement in response to the stirring compositions of Philip Glass – the mood-setting cello piece, “Tissue No. 7,” or the haunting piano music of Dracula’s “When the Dream Comes,” for example.

The costumes, designed by Thomas Mika (who also designed the set), are simple, dark, and distinguished, allowing the dancers to display their fluidity, ease of movement and grace.

The final part, danced on a glossy black floor, sets a mood of reflection, both literally and thematically as couples perform more intimate duets. However, the concluding phrase of the work loses some of its former glory and is a relatively weak coda to the stunning pre-intermission presentation.

While Cerrudo says One Thousand Pieces was inspired by 20th-century painter Marc Chagall’s “America Windows,” there is no obvious connection between the deep royal blues of Chagall’s stained glass panels at the Art Institute of Chicago and Cerrudo’s choreography. Except perhaps the fact that Chagall’s stained glass works were donated to the Chicago institute the same year the dance troupe was founded.

Certainly, the set suggests framed glass panels, but dark reflective surfaces, rather than bright, glowing colors as in Chagall’s work. Nevertheless, whereas the source of a choreographer’s inspiration may be fascinating, it’s not necessarily relevant to draw a thread from the source to the outcome.

One of America’s more original contemporary dance companies, Hubbard Street has been under new directorship since the troupe came to Ottawa six-and-a-half years ago with three eclectic works. Artistic director Glenn Edgerton, who has had an international career as dancer and director at companies such as the acclaimed Joffrey Ballet and the Nederlands Dans Theater, joined Hubbard Street in 2008. Since then, Edgerton has continued to work with the company’s signature choreographers as well as adding important new voices.

Cerrudo, born in Madrid, Spain, is one of those voices and hopefully will continue to be as the company’s first resident choreographer. Since 2009, he has created a dozen works for the company. One Thousand Pieces, his first full-length piece, earned a Prince Prize for Commissioning Original Work from the Prince Charitable Trusts.

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From → Contemporary

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