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Donald Rosenberg  |  November 08, 2010

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago exudes energy and finesse

The members of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago appear to be equal to any task a choreographer sets before them. It's a good thing they are. The works in the modern-dance company's repertoire require enormous helpings of dexterity, daring and personality.

Hubbard Street's program Saturday at the Ohio Theatre a presentation of DanceCleveland and Cuyahoga Community College revealed the polish and depth the dancers bring to creations that test body and sometimes soul. It is an electrifying company eager to face every fresh and surprising challenge.

The evening was packed with dance ideas, occasionally too many to maintain coherence. But the results more often than not were arresting and even thrilling, whether the ensemble was immersed in abstraction or hinting at spiritual or human relationships.

Two works by Alejandro Cerrudo, the company's resident choreographer, introduced a vibrant and sensitive creative voice. The first thing you see in "Blanco" is fog, through which four women emerge under white shafts of light.

The fog continues to swirl as the dancers, dressed in gray leotards, perform solo or unison patterns marked by snapping and soaring arm gestures. Set to piano music by Felix Mendelssohn and Charles Valentin Alkan, the two short movements abound in sleek interplay and sculptural beauty. The dancers Meredith Dincolo, Laura Halm, Jessica Tong and Robyn Mineko Williams managed the piece's demands with exceptional control and nuance.

Cerrudo's "Deep Down Dos" takes nine dancers through seamless chains of activity to Mason Bates' "Music from Underground Spaces." The score's driving rhythms and touches of sonic nature fuel the choreography, a bold explosion of physical encounters for dancers dressed in black and often performing in silhouette.

Once four women and five men have inhabited every corner of the stage, a couple Ana Lopez and Benjamin Wardell breaks off to enfold in a duet of sensuous lyricism. Choreography, lighting and dance come together in a work of haunting mystery.

The mood is playfully subversive in Victor Quijada's "Physikal Linguistiks," which is crammed with quirky and humorous episodes that sometimes take the dancers past the fourth wall. In the opening sequence, the men push each other's heads, elbows and more in a goofy expansion of movement language that almost spills over into the audience.

Jasper Gahunia's score, a collage of classical and contemporary music, serves as ingenious companion to Quijada's novel mix of spoken and danced sequences. The in-jokes tend to wear out their welcome, but the dancers were gloriously in sync with the work's offbeat aesthetic.

The company also reveled in the fluid and stately duets that pervade Nacho Duato's "Arcangelo," performed to music by Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. From the golden walls and tiny pyramids of light to the black curtain that lifts a couple at the end, the piece is a luminous flow of images danced with characteristic Hubbard Street energy and poetry.

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