Over the past two weeks, three of Chicago’s most formidable contemporary dance groups – Hubbard Street Dance Company, Giordano Dance Chicago, and Deep Roots Dance Theater – have performed spectacular performances on the stage of the Harris Theater and the Auditorium Theatre. Each troupe showcased unique contemporary, jazz and rich theatrical dance styles, enhanced by the dancers’ technical brilliance.
On Saturday night, I will begin a passionate performance that has attracted a huge crowd to the hall. The performance won acclaim for the company’s 14 dancers and two company trainees.
The program actually opened with the 1990 work “Juntos” (Spanish for “together”) by Kevin Iga Jeff (the company’s co-founder and artistic director emeritus with Gary Abbott). It had a joyous, festive energy set to rousing music by jazz master Pat Metheny, moving from a duet, to a quartet, to another duet, all expertly admirable. Next came Abbott’s “53 Inhale,” composed for six dancers, set to music by Niko Muhly, and performed with precision and intensity.
Then there was “Vesper,” a delightful work by Ulysses Dove (the last star of Alvin Ailey’s company) with an electronic score composed by Mikel Rouse. Inspired by Dove’s grandmother and her relationship with the church, six female dancers (Imani Drake, Taylor Ramos, Alyssa McCullum, Heather Cagle, Rebecca Kuczma and Niamah Stewart) dramatically interacted with rows of straight-back pews in an absolutely captivating performance.
Bravura Imani Drake opened the second half of the show with a stunning jazz score by Keith Lee’s “Mama Rose” by Archie Shepp. Drake’s dramatic mood swings and persistence were simply astounding.
Closing the program was the world premiere of “Madonna Anno Domino,” choreographed for full company by Nicole Clarke-Springer, Deeply Rooted’s artistic director, and set to music by Aretha Franklin, Culo de Song, Sinead O’Connor. and Alec Lenz. It opened with a speech by Barack Obama about the power of democracy (and its challenges).
Finally, it should be noted that construction on Deeply Rooted’s grand-scale state-of-the-art new home in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood is slated to begin in 2024.
NEXT: Hubbard Street (now in its 46th season) wraps up its four-day run at the Harris Theater with three spectacular performances of “Peace.” Given the current state of the world, this certainly sounds wishful thinking.
The company of 14 dancers is uniformly excellent, but if I had to single out one couple, the always-impressive Shota Miyoshi and partner Alexandria Best knocked off the opening act in Lar Lubovitch’s 2010 work “Coltrane’s Favorite Things.” . The work (consisting of an excellent quartet and three dancers) was set to John Coltrane’s brilliant jazzy riff on Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein’s No. 2 song and was danced against a black, white and gray “drip painting” backdrop. ” by Jackson Pollock Intertwined squiggs are their own dance. Lubovitch says, “I wanted to draw a parallel between Coltrane’s vocal sheet and Pollock’s field of practice. And he did, as Pollock’s abstractions became three-dimensional and evocative of human interaction.
Opening the program was choreographer Darrell Grand Moultrie’s 2022 work “Journey Dichotomy.” Set to an expansive mix of music (by Ezio Bosso, Dmitri Shostakovich, V. Michael McKay, Niels Oliver Frahm and Donald McKay), the seven pieces explore human relationships, suggesting “Vitality,” “Connection,” “Vision.” “Community” and “Resistance” great Michelle Dolly (in red) leads the company in the final sequence alongside Jack Henderson and Miyoshi.
The final work on the program was the company premiere of “Return to Patience,” a 2015 piece choreographed by Azure Barton (who now serves as the company’s artist-in-residence). Set to music by Caroline Shaw and expertly staged (much of the work on Hubbard Street, by Jonathan E. Alsberry), it was performed by a full company that came onstage in white robes. Barton’s work is abstract, yet at the same time suggests emotional changes between groups and individuals, the company sometimes looking directly at the audience.
Now, on to Giordano Dance Chicago, which is in its 61st season. “La Grande Futur is here!” Mia Michaels said at the concert titled “Unlimited”. It opened with the inspiring sentiment. (composed to music by Amon Tobin), Five suggests that the couple may have been a little hung up at first. Next was a short teaser preview of Al Blackstone’s work in progress, set to music by George Gershwin. Brooke Clawson’s “Sneaky Pete” was followed by a winning character performance by dancers Erina Yuda and Adam Houston. And with Sherry Zunker’s “The Man Away,” there was an extra Gershwin that cleverly served as a tribute to the company’s longtime executive (who recently stepped down) and Michael McStraw, who danced at Ashley’s.
Also on the program were Ray Mercer’s “Spinning Round” and “Jolt,” Autumn Eckman’s epic grand scale, and a recital for 10 terrific dancers.
And now, one last thought: These were the showcases of three of Chicago’s top dance companies. And with the amazing Joffrey Ballet (recent Lyric Opera Theater’s stunning production of Lyme Scarlett’s “Frankenstein,” soon to be followed by the magical Chicago World’s Fair-themed production of “The Nutcracker”), there’s only one conclusion left. Made up. And quite simply, Chicago has become the true dance capital of this country.
Follow Heidi Weiss on Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic