At: The Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph
Runs Through: April 22; $20-$75
By Catey Sullivan
The wordless wit of Mozart's playful ( and instantly recognizable ) Symphony No. 40 takes on an evocative visual dimension in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Strokes Through The Tail. The piece, which opens the company's Fresh Visions spring dance concert, is one of several in the innovative repertoire showcasing works by Marguerite Donlon, Lar Lubovitch and Toru Shimazaki. A second program, Vivid Blooms, runs April 18 through 22 and features dances by Jiri Kylian, Alejandro Cerrudo and Jorma Elo as well as the world premiere of Artistic Director Jim Vincent's Palladio.
Fresh Visions, the opening-night offering of the spring series, is a visual feast popping with extraordinary athleticism as dancers convey a vast spectrum of emotion with bounding, kinetic grace. Movements of sinewy, languid longing segue into playful syncopated romps which segue into sunny, primary-colored and nonsense inspired cavorting. In all, it's an eclectic evening of elastic versatility bursting with images that zing with vibrancy.
Opening the Fresh Visions program is Donlon's ingeniously playful Strokes Through the Tale, a piece that has the dancers moving in a manner that calls to mind wonderful toys—marionettes, rag dolls and come to life with beauty set akimbo. Traditional dance mores are inverted: Toes point out instead of in and arms move with the precision of cleverly broken clockworks, while the female soloist ( Cheryl Mann, Sarah Cullen Fuller at later performances ) dons a tuxedo jacket with tails and is joined by by a quintet of men ( Larry Trice, Terence Marling, Yarden Ronen, Martin Lindinger and Alejandro Cerrudo ) who swirl and leap in cloud-like tutus. It's as if the black and the white swans of Swan Lake were transported into a gleeful parallel universe where irreverence has replaced tragedy.
In Cryptoglyph, choreographer Lubovitch paints a portrait of blazing whimsy as dancers in defiant orange move before a backdrop of a hodgepodge alphabet, giant letters gleaming like stray jabberwocky syllables marauding through Alice's through-the-lookingglass wonderland. Meredith Monk's music is an insouciant mix of scat, catcalls and caterwauls, seemingly random words punctuating the astounding display of mirthful, flirtatious dynamism. Lubovitch's costumes ( and he designed the set as well ) are bright with humor, reflecting the crazy broken alphabet of the set on unitards festooned with cheerily out-of-order letters. Soloist Tobin Del Cuore opens the piece with fiery merriment, unleashing a mood that continues through segments dance by a quartet followed by a duet and a septet.
The Fresh Visions finale comes with Bardo, Shimazaki's a stark, gorgeous piece set to the Middle Eastern-tinged music of Dead Can Dance. It conjures the mysticism of whirling dervishes, the jagged, rhythmic pulses of electro-shock therapy and the arching grace of minarets. Bardo is simply a stunner, and a significant addition to Hubbard Street's repertoire.
The Fresh Visions program was performed through April 15. This week, the spring series will feature the Vivid Blooms program.