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Donald Rosenberg  |  October 31, 2010

Hubbard Street moved to perform new works

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 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."


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