Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Brings Powerful Modern Works To Penn State
Like many young girls, I love dance. Ballet, modern dance, contemporary dance — all of these were a huge part of my childhood. So when I heard that Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was coming to Eisenhower Auditorium, I got extremely excited and jumped at the possible chance to cover the event. After all, I hadn’t seen great professional dance in what felt like ages.
Within 30 seconds of the show starting, I knew my excitement had not been misguided. The program was comprised of four pieces, all created by different choreographers, musicians, and costumers.
The first of these was titled Out of Keeping, and was choreographed by Penny Saunders. Out of Keeping was specifically choreographed and created for Hubbard Street Dance, and you could tell that fact by how well it was performed. While all the music in the piece sounded similar, the songs came from different albums and artists, namely Olafur Arnalds, Volker Bertelmann, Hilary Hahn, Danny Norbury, and Domenico Scarlatti.
All clad in simple, solid colored costumes, the dancers gave life to music. Even though at some points they moved very slowly to some very fast music (and vice versa), the conflicting styles had an intriguing visual appeal. Additionally, the use of clever lighting made the piece even more spectacular, as the dancers cast shadows on the backdrop.
The second piece, titled N.N.N.N. and choreographed by William Forsythe, was definitely a crowd favorite. The dancers wore tank tops and sweatpants, which might have struck some people as odd. More importantly however, there was no discernible music. The only sounds were the slaps, claps, and exaggerated breathing of the four dancers on stage. Not only was it extremely impressive to watch them perform fast and complex choreography without missing a beat, it was also an interesting experience to sit in silence with hundreds of people, with everyone’s focus on just those four dancers. Despite the fact that the auditorium was quite crowded, the silence was so still that everyone could hear the heavy breathing of the performers.
The third piece, an excerpt from Second to Last was the simplest and most conventionally beautiful piece. Choreographed by Alejandro Cerrudo, the piece is set to music by Arvo Part, a man who created the soundtracks for dozens of movies. The music, combined with the dark lighting and simple costumes, made the dancing couples look wonderful.
Finally, the last of the four pieces was titled Gnawa, choreographed by Nacho Duato. Just like Out of Keeping, Gnawa was created specifically for Hubbard Street Dance. Set to music that “taps the Mediterranean spirit of North Africa and Duato’s native Spain,” the high-energy piece ended the night on a positive note.
While all four of the pieces were extremely different, it was incredibly easy to change mindsets and become immersed in each one. There were no pointe shoes and no tutus. On the contrary, every piece was extremely athletic and exciting to watch. Despite the fact that none of the pieces had a “story” or plot line listed in the program, you found yourself conjuring up possible stories in your head. Likewise, the fact that everyone could imagine their own narrative made the experience different, unique, and special for everyone.
While it isn’t as loud or visible as many other aspects of Penn State life, each time I go to a performance like this I am reminded of the small but persistent arts community at Penn State. And when acts like the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago come to State College, that community leaves satisfied.