In the four decades since choreographer Lou Conte toured his four best women dancers around area nursing homes, thus founding Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the company has amassed a repertoire of more than 150 works, and that’s not even counting those of their second company, Hubbard Street 2.
As you can imagine, this has made the selection process for their 40th anniversary programs – and Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton’s job – all the more difficult.
So, Edgerton says, the program Houstonians will see, courtesy of the Society for the Performing Arts, will be but a “small snapshot” of the company’s history, beginning in 1978 and running through today. The program itself, however, will start with a piece from Nacho Duato, the first European choreographer brought into the company when they added his work, Jardi Tancat, to the repertoire in 1997.
When the curtain rises on Jardi Tancat, the audience will see a brown floor designed to emulate earth, demarcated by poles on the stage meant to evoke the piece’s title, which is Catalan for “enclosed garden.” The characters in this world live in drought, waiting for the rains and the better future they hope will follow. Edgerton describes Duato’s choreography as both “lovely and accessible,” and the music (from Maria Del Mar Bonet) as melodic, giving “a pleasant musicality and feel to the piece.”
The program will then turn to two choreographers who Edgerton says represent “something more of the moment”: Alejandro Cerrudo and Crystal Pite.
Edgerton named Cerrudo Hubbard Street’s first resident choreographer in 2009, Edgerton’s first year on the job, saying, “I named him resident choreographer because, in essence, he was doing the job already.” Cerrudo began choreographing in 2006, a year after he joined the company as a dancer, and has since created 15 pieces that have helped shape the Hubbard Street profile, pieces like 2011’s Pacopepepluto.
In Pacopepepluto, three male soloists (playing the characters Paco, Pepe and Pluto) dance to some of the best of Dean Martin – “Memories are Made of This,” “In the Chapel in the Moonlight” and “That’s Amore” – clothed only in dance belts. Unsurprisingly, Edgerton says the piece shows a certain masculinity, but also has a good sense of humor and a tongue-in-cheek feel.
“It has a sense of the dancer dancing while nobody's watching,” says Edgerton. “It has that hidden feel to it that is perhaps a little bit of shyness, but also a sense of daring.”
Cerrudo’s second contribution to the program, Out of Your Mind, borrows its title from British philosopher Alan Watts as well as its text, with Edgerton saying that Cerrudo uses “the cadence of the speaker for the rhythm, which then creates the movement coming from the dancers.”
Crystal Pite’s A Picture of You Falling, first performed by Hubbard Street as a solo excerpt four years ago, joined the repertoire in 2015. Edgerton says the duet, set to music from Owen Belton with a narration by actress Kate Strong, is “a depiction of a complex relationship.”
“It has very loving, very tender moments, but then there’s clear confusion or misunderstanding that tugs and pulls on the relationship in a difficult way,” says Edgerton, adding that “it’s a very beautiful trajectory.”
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The show closes where Hubbard Street began, with Lou Conte’s uplifting, energetic love letter to the big band era, The 40’s, which debuted during the company’s inaugural season in 1978. “It’s really just 10 minutes long, but people ask about The 40’s all the time, to the point I said, ‘Okay, for our 40th anniversary we’ll bring it back,’” says Edgerton.
Edgerton says Conte’s “cleverly choreographed” work, the company’s first signature piece, has a much more jazz-oriented feel to it, whereas Jardi Tancat offers something more lyrical and the newer works something a bit more intricate and complex in their choreography. And although the program is not a real retrospective of the company, Edgerton says it does hint at it, giving an overview of “ where the company has come from [and] where we are now.”
Edgerton adds simply, “[It’s] a good snapshot of Hubbard Street.”
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is scheduled to perform at 7:30 p.m. April 13 at Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana. For more information, call 713-227-4772 or visit spahouston.org. $34 to $109.