Related Features


Your support helps us cover dance in New York City and beyond! Donate now.

IMPRESSIONS: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at The Joyce Theater

IMPRESSIONS: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at The Joyce Theater
Hannah Lieberman

By Hannah Lieberman
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on March 13, 2024
"Nevermore." Photo: Michelle Reid

Dance The 'Chicago Way'

Program A: March 12 - 17, 2024 ( the program reviewed)
Program B: March 19 -24, 2024
Tickets: Click here

Artistic Director: Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell | Executive Director: David McDermott | Founder: Lou Conte

Company: Alexandria Best, Jacqueline Burnett, Aaron Choate, Morgan Clune, Michele Dooley, Abdiel Figueroa Reyes, Elliot Hammans, Jack Henderson, Alysia Johnson, Shota Miyoshi, David Schultz, Simone Stevens, Cyrie Topete, Matt Wenckowski

Senior Rehearsal Director & Director of Summer Intensives: Jonathan E. Alsberry | Rehearsal Director: Craig D. Black, Jr. | Manager of Training Operations: Krista Ellensohn

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, under the artistic leadership of Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, is celebrating their 46th anniversary with a two-week run at the Joyce. This week, the ensemble of sharply technical dancers is performing three works created on the company within the last two years.

Dichotomy of a Journey by Darrell Grand Moultrie never stopped moving through seven sections swept along by classical and gospel music. Its vocabulary was utterly jam-packed. I felt that if I looked away for a moment, I would miss a word crucial to my understanding of the movement language. A duet with Jacqueline Burnett and David Schultz moved through shape after shape with distinct clarity. This clear and complex duet–which felt a bit like a classical pas de deux in its temporality and drama–ended with the couple seated downstage, sharing a single spot, their limbs swimming blurrily in the light.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in Dichotomy of a Journey by Darrell Grand Moultrie. Photo: Michelle Reid

A sure standout of the evening was a solo performed by Elliot Hammans. He filled the athletic and busy choreography with earnestness that strove to match gospel music legend Varn Michael McKay's sonically rich In "My Dreams." Hammans expertly alternated between peculiar moments, like awkward, straight-legged jumps, and quintessentially visually pleasing ones, like an impressive extension downstage center. These fluid juxtapositions highlighted the work’s themes; the program note states: “From this moment and beyond: May we continue to live with vitality, connection, vision, community, and most importantly, self-encouragement. — Darrell Grand Moultrie.”

A joyful and powerful series of solos by Alexandria Best, Aaron Chaote, Abdiel Figueroa Reyes, and Cyrie Topete–smiling at one another and offering supportive energy–preceded the final ensemble section, which highlighted the company’s strong camaraderie. Several current company members only joined in 2021 and 2022, but you wouldn’t know it watching their glorious, crisp unison.

Weaving the western narrative of Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Raven" with the eastern folklore of "The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl," the New York premiere of HSDC-commissioned Nevermore by Thang Dao materialized from total darkness onstage. Hammans, clad in stark white, appeared reclining on the backs of three dancers wearing loose black clothing with bits of white and red (possibly ravens or magpies). An eerie recording of "The Raven" grounded the work in narrative storytelling. As it reiterated “Lenore, Lenore,” (the narrator’s lost love in Poe’s poem) Burnett, in bright red, was carried onstage; Hammans tracked her direction and level changes with his torso, as if romantically bound to her energy.

Elliot Hammans, Jack Henderson, Simone Stevens, and Abdiel Figueroa Reyes in Nevermore by Thang Dao. Photo: Michelle Reid

The middle of the work, bookended by clear narratives, meditated on a diverse series of bird gestures and motifs. Throughout the duets and moments of unison, Dao’s inventive avian imagery left me wondering about bird symbolism in both eastern and western love stories. Nevermore’s conclusion depicted the “magpie bridge” which unites the lovers in the "Weaver Girl" tale. Hammans and Burnett’s connection developed as they engaged in an increasingly playful duet. In a particularly memorable moment, Burnett took Hammans’ head in both hands and gently, lovingly circled it. The work ended as it began, with Hammans in the dark, his shadow looming large and lonesome. Though a bit literal, Nevermore cleverly fused two literary narratives to show how yearning, love, longing, and loss are universal human experiences.

The program closed with another New York premiere, Dear Frankie, Rennie Harris’s tribute to DJ Frankie Knuckles and Chicago House music and culture. Though they are based in its birthplace, House is not something found in Hubbard Street’s typical repertoire. But the company holds each other up and together in this work. A voiceover that thanks DJ Frankie Knuckles for giving Black queer youth a voice provides important educational context for audience members, but the deep sense of freedom and community in this work truly honors the creator of House.

Hubbard Street Dancer Cyrie Topete in Dear Frankie by Rennie Harris. Photo: Michelle Reid

Instigating and supporting one another, the dancers were bubbling over with infectious musicality. They found each other over and over with "the jack," a freestyle House move in which the dancer undulates their torso back and forth. House dance necessitates a certain degree of individual, authentic groove, and the choreography was clearly designed to highlight each dancer’s style and strengths; Abdiel Figueroa Reyes, Simone Stevens, and Michele Dooley were particularly strong in this work, drawing my eye with their distinct energies and confidence. The company continued to dance through the standing ovation, audience members enthusiastically clapping to the beat. I’ve never seen a Joyce audience on their feet so quickly. 

The Dance Enthusiast Shares IMPRESSIONS/our brand of review, and creates conversation.
For more IMPRESSIONS, click here.
Share your #AudienceReview of performances. Write one today!

The Dance Enthusiast - News, Reviews, Interviews and an Open Invitation for YOU to join the Dance Conversation.

Related Features

More from this Author