Sunday, October 31st, 2010 12:00 PM
So, what's new at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago? Virtually everything.
Unlike dance companies that occasionally dip feet into the past, Hubbard focuses on works by living choreographers eager to stretch the bounds of movement. The troupe, founded in 1977 by former Broadway dancer-choreographer Lou Conte, has been lauded for its daring personality and top-flight dancing.
Hubbard will share both aspects when the company -- last here in 2000 -- appears more › Saturday at the Ohio Theatre under the auspices of DanceCleveland and Cuyahoga Community College's Tri-C Presents series.
Artistic director Glenn Edgerton was a dancer with another admired Chicago company, Joffrey Ballet, when Hubbard was in its infancy.
"It was a different company certainly from the Joffrey," Edgerton said recently by phone from Chicago. "But what we did have in common was the sense of cultivating and searching for new work and new choreographers. That spirit of creativity was what I grew up with."
At Joffrey Ballet, Texas-born Edgerton was inspired by founding artistic director Robert Joffrey, who balanced classical ballets with works by living choreographers. Among them was Jiri Kylian, then artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater, who became Edgerton's next mentor.
After 11 years with Joffrey, Edgerton joined the Nederlands company, which he later led for a decade. (Jim Vincent, his predecessor at Hubbard, is current director of Nederlands.)
Edgerton's time in The Hague prepared him for Hubbard's mission of nurturing the new, though the Chicago company differs from the Dutch troupe's tradition of "doing classical ballet where you're on pointe one day and the following day you're rolling on the floor," he said.
"It's important to me to challenge the dancers and create a wide range with the contemporary world field."
One person helping him do so is dancer Alejandro Cerrudo, who's also Hubbard's resident choreographer. Like Edgerton, he began his career in classical ballet before venturing into contemporary dance. The Madrid-born Cerrudo was dancing with Germany's Stuttgart Ballet when he entered the creative world.
"My first interest was to become a better dancer," said Cerrudo, from Chicago. "If I would step into a choreographer's shoes, I would see what the choreographer's perspective is and what they want from a dancer."
Cerrudo's perspective will be evident in two works, "Blanco" and "Deep Down Dos," on Saturday's program. Four women dance "Blanco," set to music by Mendelssohn and Alkan, while a large ensemble explores relationships in "Deep Down Dos." The latter's score, Mason Bates' "Underground Spaces," was played first by the Chicago Symphony.
Cerrudo chose the music for "Deep Down Dos" after hearing several pieces by Bates, the Chicago Symphony's composer-in-residence. The title refers both to the score's underground sounds and the piece's final duet (dos means two in Spanish).
"It was very exciting to work with something I was not naturally attracted to," he said, "but at the same time there were things about the music that really intrigued me. It was a very, very fun process, because I took it as a blank canvas and I was just sort of feeling the painting."
Along with the Cerrudo works, Hubbard will perform Victor Quijada's "Physikal Linguistiks," a blend of ballet and hip-hop, and Nacho Duato's "Arcangelo," which is more balletic in style.
"It's a very wide range for the dancers," Edgerton said, "even though they're not on pointe. Somehow in there is a common thread of organic, inventive movement."
RELATED COMPANY: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 12:00 PM
Who knew a single tire rolling across the E.J. Thomas Hall stage could be so funny?
Things got even more comical when a second lone tire traveled by and more started to crisscross, followed by a whole mishmash of tires thrown onstage in the world premiere of Bolero Akron Saturday night.
The uniquely Akron dance, which featured 65 local volunteers, was created by Keigwin and Company of New York to reflect the more › flavor of our city and its people. The backdrop was Ravel's hypnotically repetitive, swelling Bolero.
The tire prop was a heavily used Akron icon in this dance, paying homage to the industry that for many years shaped this city. But the people of varied ages, shapes, sizes and races who wore them around their hips, hopped through them and executed cool moves on top of them are what brought sheer joy to the experience.
This was choreographer Larry Keigwin's gift to Akron. Aided by assistant choreographer Nicole Wolcott, the dance was built on-the-spot over 12 days at Guzzetta Hall at the University of Akron. It's the fifth time Keigwin has built a city-centric dance with local volunteers, beginning with New York City and spreading to Denver, Santa Barbara, and Purchase, N.Y.
Thanks to co-commissioners DanceCleveland, the University of Akron Dance Program and E.J. Thomas Hall, our city had 15 minutes onstage to celebrate itself. This exact group of dancers will never come together to
perform this unique dance again, so it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for both the cast and audience.
Bolero Akron's athletic themes alluding to football, the marathon and dance competition made it clear we live in a sports-crazy town. But there was more.
Akron folks aren't afraid to get their hands dirty, and you saw that come to life as the volunteer dancers artfully handled scores of old, dirty tires.
The motif of reinvention was ever present in Bolero Akron as these performers used the symbolic tire in new and different ways. As they gyrated on top of the tires or hopped through them in football-drill fashion, one got the feeling that these dancers were embracing Akron's industrial past while also moving forward. It could be seen as a subtle allusion to Akron's transition from the Rubber City to one focusing on the polymer and bioinnovation industries.
In a nod to the university, the Soap Box Derby and a celebration of diversity, Akron's best-known drag queen, Trixie Morgan (Gary Grether), burst through the backstage door in a glorious entrance as part of a massive pep rally. Flag-waving dancers in this flash mob segment of the dance rolled her out on an elevated platform, with Morgan, in full gown and regalia, waving a checkered flag.
Little girls in cheerleading and dance outfits ran through with blowup Goodyear blimps, and other youngsters frolicked or did flips amid the tires. Special kudos go to the animated Robert Grant in his Zippy kangaroo glasses and Valarie Moss with her exuberant flag-twirling solo that ended a swift segment of flag runs in honor of the Soap Box Derby.
Throughout Bolero Akron, the Keigwin and Company members were giving partners in the dance, serving as dance captains and directing traffic in a way that helped hold the performance together and also made them vital participants.
The world premiere couldn't have ended more perfectly than with bows to Whip It, by Akron's own Devo.
Leading up to this Akron love fest, Keigwin and Company performed a program of sexy, funny, witty dances. This hot young company was formed in 2003 by the 40-year-old Keigwin, whom Metro New York described as ''the premier choreographer of the MTV generation.''
Keigwin and his dancers have a bold sense of humor that became campy in the Fly segment of the dance Air, with a pilot and flight attendants dancing to the Muzak tune Up, Up and Away. The comical piece included rolling suitcases, a cheesy rendition of flight attendants' safety presentation, and plenty of soaring lifts.
All of the dances were choreographed by Keigwin, including the quirky male duet between him and Matthew Baker in Breeze, part of Air. It was followed by the beautifully whirling, freewheeling Wind, featuring the full company of eight dancing to Philip Glass' Channels and Winds.
Love Songs was an often humorous look at relationships, composed of six duets set to the pop music of Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone. Most memorable was the resistance and opposition between Keigwin and Wolcott to the song Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood, where the couple enters with him pushing her head and exits with her pushing his chest as he walks backward. In I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You), Liz Riga was ferociously sexy as the femme fatale to Baker's needy love interest, who straddled her waist like a baby and held onto her leg as she dragged him off stage.
Triptych, inspired by a black and white photo triptych at a museum, was an aerodynamic dance that heavily featured the dancers' arms in long, linear motions that Keigwin likened to a metronome quality. The movements felt robotic as dancers walked and waved in unison, rotated their arms like helicopters, and ran in circular patterns.
The dancers themselves evoked black and white images, with stark lighting making their bodies look ultra-white in contrast to their black club-style leotards or shorts. The piece became poetic with all the barefoot dancers en pointe, their feet aflutter as they moved in quick, sweeping circular patterns.
Wrapping it all up, Bolero Akron was a delightfully celebratory finale to a cool, eclectic evening of dance. After nearly two weeks of hard work, sweat and collaboration, the event was one that Akron will always remember with pride.
Tuesday, October 5th, 2010 12:00 PM
A tire rolls across the stage. Then another. Then a few dozen more. So begins "Bolero Akron," the gleeful dance piece that received its world premiere by Keigwin + Company and a crowd of Akron-area residents Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall.
The work was part of the New York troupe's program opening DanceCleveland's new season. Presented with Thomas Hall and the University of Akron, the evening introduced a company that more › floats, skips and vibrates on wings of artistic director Larry Keigwin's fluent and witty choreography.
Keigwin and company member Nicole Wolcott have staged "Bolero" celebrations to the hypnotic Ravel score in several American cities. Each version is geared to the specific community, which, in Akron's case, meant references to tires, blimps and even an Amazonian drag queen (Trixie Morgan).
"Bolero Akron" unfolded to Ravel's insistent rhythm and theme like an uproarious block party. Dressed in hip variations of red, the local residents and Keigwin dancers made a merry parade of their various duties.
Little ones, teens and mature participants alike marched through the tires as if going through exercises at psychedelic boot camp. As the music increased in volume and tension, the cast became bikers, sports fans or, in the big finale, flag wavers at the Roller Derby.
Keigwin + Company
The coup de theatre was the arrival of Trixie Morgan (aka Gary Grether) atop an enormous portable ladder. The moment won't give Dolly a run for her money at the Harmonia Gardens, but it did add another giddy layer to this lark of a creation.
The 60 or so local residents who volunteered for "Bolero Akron" aren't likely to forget the experience. They looked thoroughly drilled in the dizzying material, as if they'd been practicing for months, instead of the two weeks they rehearsed the piece.
Earlier in the program, the Keigwin dancers performed works by their artistic director that revealed a buoyant, whimsical and inventive choreographic voice. "Air" and "Wind" send the company through an array of breezy metaphoric episodes.
We meet a group of air stewards and stewardesses dancing goofy patterns with one another and luggage to Jim Webb's "Up, Up and Away." Keigwin and Matthew Baker are light-hearted protagonists cavorting to a Perry Como favorite, "Catch a Falling Star," while the cast engages in soaring lifts and intricate steps to music by Philip Glass in "Wind."
Keigwin's "Love Songs" uses classics by Roy Orbison, Aretha Franklin and Nina Simone to portray three couples in assorted states of emotional upheaval and euphoria. The funniest sequences find Liz Riga as a torrid dominatrix dancing to the frenzied hilt with Baker. Keigwin, Wolcott, Kristina Hanna and Aaron Carr were the other charismatic lovers.
Quirky rituals and angular arm patterns form the crux of "Triptych," a high-energy work – set to Jonathan Melville Pratt's pulsating score – that shows Keigwin's ability to take his marvelous troupe through arresting dance images minus a narrative.
RELATED COMPANY: Keigwin+Company
Wednesday, September 29th, 2010 12:00 PM
Keigwin + Company members Ashley Browne, Matthew Baker and Ryoji Sasamoto dance Larry Keigwin's "Triptych," which will be part of the New York contemporary dance company's program Saturday at Akron's E.J. Thomas Hall.
Ravel's "Bolero" has been haunting the world since 1928, when the French composer's orchestral crescendo was first danced at the Paris Opera. Early in the 21st century, the piece began to haunt Larry Keigwin.
The New York choreographer was more › listening to a recording of "Bolero" when he realized he might capture it in movement with his troupe, Keigwin + Company, and a stageful of guests.
"It's 15 minutes with climaxes at the end," he remembers thinking. "So I thought, 'maybe a large amount of people.' What can compete with that music?"
Keigwin evidently found a good answer. The first result of his explosive exploration was "Bolero NYC," which squeezed 50 performers onto the stage at the American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C. It soon became a big hit at the Joyce Theatre in New York using the idea of urban pedestrians as the unifying theme.
Since then, Keigwin has tailored his exuberant and whimsical "Bolero" for other cities and regions, devising "Bolero Colorado" (Denver), "Bolero Santa Barbara" and "Bolero Suburbia" (White Plains, N.Y.).
And now comes "Bolero Akron," which the eight dancers of Keigwin + Company and dozens of Akron-area residents will perform Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall on a program featuring other Keigwin works.
Keigwin, whose dance career has taken him from MTV to the Metropolitan Opera, relishes the chance to get to know and portray various communities through his "Bolero" creations.
"I try and find some hook," Keigwin said during an interview early in the rehearsal period last week in Akron. "The movement vocabulary hopefully is inspired by the location. I try to keep the creative process interesting."
In Colorado, the piece embraced such local themes as sustainability, hiking and climbing. Surf, sun and the solstice – with the cast in bathing suits – were the hooks in Santa Barbara.
The Akron version will include references to tires, roller derbys, inventors and sports, with movement inspired by the rock group Divo and '80s music videos.
At the open audition last week at the University of Akron, 44 people showed up to try out for Keigwin, who was so taken with the enthusiastic group that he invited everyone to take part.
"It's quite a challenge for someone who has absolutely no dance background," said Marci Paolucci, an actress. "But they said no dance experience was necessary."
The participants comprise young people and "six or seven of us who are age 50-plus," said Paolucci.
One of the youngest is an actual dancer, 10-year-old Daniel Birchfield, who studies at the University of Akron's Dance Institute. His mother, Sandra Bolt-Birchfield, is also taking part.
"Larry is working to create a celebration of exactly the kinds of things Daniel and I enjoy about Akron," said Bolt-Birchfield, a registered nurse who minored in dance at Akron U. "So when someone watches this dance they'll recognize all of those wonderful opportunities that have built and made Akron."
Keigwin's describes his "Bolero" endeavors as "orchestrating human traffic. Each group is different." Some of the pieces in the dance puzzle show up in every version, though the choreographer said he makes sure that the distinctive personality of each community comes through.
He expects his next version will be a video, "Bolero 62," which Keigwin plans to set in the pool of a retirement community. It will have hints of Busby Berkeley and Esther Williams films, with aerobics and water balloons providing local color.
"It's endless!" said Keigwin of the "Bolero" possibilities. "Oh, my God – 'Bolero Bollywood,' 'Bolero Luau.' Of course, we're picking places we want to go."
Keigwin, a native of Wading River, Long Island, has been going places through dance since he was 16, when he became a regular on "Club MTV." He freelanced in many companies until he created his own in 2003.
Keigwin + Company, which is admired for energetic and uproarious artistry, spends up to 30 weeks a year rehearsing, performing and teaching. Its appearance in Akron is part of a residency that includes classes at Akron U and a master class in Cleveland.
In addition to "Bolero Akron," the company Saturday will dance four Keigwin works: "Love Songs," a series of duets for three couples set to pop songs; "Air" and "Wind," which portrays the elements to music by Jim Webb and Philip Glass; and "Triptych," an abstract work danced to a score by Jonathan Melville Pratt.
Keigwin calls his dance aesthetic "very athletic, with a theatrical sensibility of wit, style and heart. Sometimes I think choreography is just a process of collecting and editing.
"In my own company, the canvas is very blank. We do what we want to do."
RELATED COMPANY: Keigwin+Company
Tuesday, September 28th, 2010 12:00 PM
Rolling tires, throwing them onstage and frolicking among them was the thing of the day for volunteers at Wednesday's rehearsal of Bolero Akron at Guzzetta Hall.
About 50 community volunteers this week have been building the dance that will celebrate Akron's past and present with choreographer Larry Keigwin and members of Keigwin + Company. On Wednesday, a group of 16 rehearsed a section to Ravel's Bolero, standing on top of their more › tires, miming driving race cars while standing inside them and skittering around while holding them at hip level.
Caris Collins, 6, cutely crawled through a tire and later, her mother, Crystle, boogied alone at center stage with a tire around her waist.
It will be 12 days of fun and hard work for the Akron-area volunteers - many of whom have no previous dance experience - before the premiere of the Akron-centric piece at 8 p.m. Oct. 2 at E.J. Thomas Hall.
Expect everything from Soap Box Derby cars to Harley-Davidson motorcycles onstage for this celebration of community.
Keigwin + Company is still actively recruiting volunteers to join a flash-mob
portion of the dance, which will segue into a choreographed bow set to Whip It by Akron's own Devo. All ages are invited, and no dance experience is necessary.
Flash mobbers will rehearse 1 to 2 p.m. Saturday at Guzzetta Hall, 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Oct. 1 at E.J. Thomas Hall, and a dress rehearsal from 2 to 5:30 p.m. the day of the performance. For more information, see Bolero Akronon Facebook or send e-mail to BoleroAkron@gmail.com.
The rest of Keigwin + Company will arrive Sunday to conduct a week of dance classes at the University of Akron, plus company rehearsals and ongoing Bolero Akron rehearsals.
For UA dance students Sara Barbuto, Catie Huff and Lianne Zydowicz, serving as student dance captains for Bolero Akron has been a chance to work with a professional New York company. Longtime local actress Marci Paolucci was drawn to working on a dance that's ''all created in the moment.''
''It's E.J. Thomas Hall. When else am I gonna be on the E.J. Thomas stage?'' she asked.