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Thursday, June 28, 2007
Presented by The American Dance Festival
Durham, North Carolina

If the phenomenon of Web 2.0 has taught us anything, it’s that user-driven content rules. That lesson found a strong example in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s engagement Thursday at the American Dance Festival where, in an evening of dances by such established and renowned choreographers as Jiri Kylian, Twyla Tharp, and Susan Marshall, the most satisfying experience of the evening came from one of the company’s dancers.

In the Participation Age (as defined by Web 2.0) when users shape and infiltrate everything from encyclopedia entries to computer programming, should it be any surprise that the most honest and comfortable work for Hubbard Street is homegrown? Furthermore, should we also be surprised that the success derives from the dancers themselves and not from the artistic management above? After all, Web 2.0 celebrates the user’s ability to tailor an individual experience and one that fills a gap of some sort.

Hubbard Street dancer Alejandro Cerrudo’s charming work “Lickety-Split” seems to abide by those principles. A warm and humorous series of duets, trios and a particularly note-worthy solo with Jamy Meek, “Lickety-Split” premiered in short-form at the company’s annual choreographers showcase in 2006. Hubbard Street Artistic Director Jim Vincent selected and nurtured the work, planting it in the company’s repertory.

Cerrudo’s human gestures and music by Devendra Banhart are alternatively heart-warming and heart-breaking, displaying an intimacy and urgency that is lacking elsewhere in the program. Whether a product of the choreography itself or of the community from which is came, the sincerity onstage was a welcome breath from the coldness and detachment felt in many of the other dances.

Which is not to say that the works of the established choreographers was less compelling, only that the company didn’t always do them justice. Kylian and Tharp’s dances stand out for their cinematic stagings and theatricality, but at times the company seemed overwhelmed by the material, particularly Kylian’s. One of the great things about Hubbard Street is that as a repertory company, it creates programs of widely disparate works from a stylistically vast range of national and international choreographers, thus introducing audiences to some important dance-makers. Without a focus on one particular style or technique, however, and without the opportunity to grow into different works, there is a tendency for the everything to look technically a bit similar and feel watered down.

In Kylian’s beautiful and haunting “Petite Mort”, the company lacked the sharpness and precision that the partnering demanded. Marshall’s “Kiss,” despite the flying harnesses attached to the two dancers, never left the ground emotionally. Tharp’s playful and intoxicating “Baker’s Dozen” felt as close as one might imagine to a ballet of The Great Gatsby and was a better fit for the Hubbard Street ensemble, who approached it enthusiastically. Artistic Director Vincent’s new work “Palladio,” on the other hand, which drew from design principles of architecture, was poorly constructed and uninhabitable, confirming another Web 2.0 philosophy that users can teach their superiors a thing or two about successful content.