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Hubbard Street Dance bids farewell to Hancher

BY SAMANTHA GENTRY | SEPTEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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This weekend, Hancher Green will stage a bittersweet farewell to the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will showcase four pieces to help the community bid adieu to the beloved performing-arts center.

The performance will be held at 7 p.m. Sept. 4 on Hancher Green; there will also be a movement workshop at 5 p.m. that day. Admission is free.

For this particular show, two Hubbard Street troupes will perform contemporary ballet in hopes of not only having an effect on the community but also on the UI Dance Department.

The first piece to take the stage, “Walking Mad,” was choreographed by Johan Inger. It will include dancers climbing up and leaping around a cement wall.

Kevin Shannon, who has danced with the company since 2007, will perform in the piece with several other dancers from the first company.

“[‘Walking Mad’] has a humorous side and then a darker side,” he said. “Kind of like what it feels like to get left out of the party.”

Sticking to its contemporary-ballet style, the company will also perform a piece by Alonzo King, “Following the Subtle Current Upstream.”

King is known for pushing the boundaries of his dancers’ bodies. For this performance, he plans to challenge them by changing the choreography at each show.

The final piece performed by the first company will be “Too Beaucoup.”

Choreographed by Sharon Eyal and Gai Behara, the 35-minute routine requires the dancers to be synchronized in each movement. The dancers’ looks are synchronized as well. The dancers perform in identical nude leotards and blond wigs to highlight the importance of unity in the piece.

“It’s like a big party on stage but very choreographed with different lines and shifts,” Shannon said. “It’s exhausting, but when you get through it, it’s like a joy.”

Alice Klock, a new addition to the Hubbard Street’s first company, previously danced with the second company for two years.

“There’s a level of prestige with the main company,” she said. “But both companies have real family atmospheres, which I think is rare and hard to find in the dance world.”

Klock will perform the duet “I Can See Myself in Your Pupil,” choreographed by Andrea Miller.

The man and woman dance together with stiff and robotic movements, but the piece maintains a comical style.

Klock, who danced the piece several times as part of the second company, said she is quite comfortable with the movements.

“For me, there’s more apprehension with the other pieces,” she said. “But with this piece, I have a personal connection.”

The show at Hancher Green is a change of scenery from the company’s usual indoor performances.

But for Klock, the change of atmosphere is the most exciting part about performing.

“I think it will definitely be a different feel than a theater,” she said. “But it will make it more alive, because we’ll have to be more aware of what’s going on.”

While the performance space isn’t what the dancers are used to in Chicago, they love it that on tour, each city has its own vibe.

“The energy of the people and how that affects our performance is really great to give back to the audience,” Shannon said.

The UI Dance Department looks forward to this performance as an inspiration for its dancers.

George de la Péna, the department chairman, highly encourages his students to attend the workshop prior to the performance with director Taryn Russell.

“The language [Hubbard Street] speaks is completely understood by our students. It’s a happy partnership,” De La Pena said. “[The company is] a perfect fit for our department, because it is a balance of contemporary modern and contemporary ballet styles.”

Erin Donohue, a graduate of the UI Dance Department and now the Hancher education-program director, took the Hubbard Street master class the last time it was in town. The troupe was one of the last big dance companies to perform at Hancher before it flooded, and for her, it was inspiring to watch the dancers perform.

“I remember the master class being really hard,” Donohue said. “But it was really fun to take class from someone in [Hubbard Street], because it is one of the leading contemporary companies in the country.”

Aside from this being the first big event of the season for Hancher, the show is also the farewell to the auditorium before it gets torn down later in the season.

The outdoor performance will include recorded memories of the community’s experiences with the venue before the show.

Hancher plans to continue hosting performances at other venues for the remainder of the season, and program officials are happy to have 14 different sites this year.

“It is going to be a very busy and exciting season,” Donohue said. “We are kind of nomads right now, but it’s still fun and exciting.”

Both Hancher and Dance Department officials believe that as many people as possible should take advantage of seeing such an influential company perform.

“Our community has been appreciators of this style of dance for some time,” de la Péna said.

“[Hubbard Street] is one of the most outstanding, cutting-edge contemporary companies of dance. It is a real leader in the new waves of dance.”


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