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Athletic, Eclectic Dance

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago known for using wide range of choreographers



Humboldt County audiences are in for a dramatic evening when Hubbard Street Dance Chicago takes the stage at the Van Duzer on Tuesday evening, Feb. 5. These dancers are contemporary titans. Hubbard Street is a spectacularly trained repertory company, commissioning dances from many diverse choreographers, differing from most major modern companies, which generally work under the artistic direction of one choreographer with a distinct aesthetic.   

Hubbard became a repertory company a few years after its founding by Broadway hoofer Lou Conte in 1978, the company's communications manager, Zachary Whittenburg, said In a phone interview from Chicago. In those first years as artistic director and sole choreographer, Conte already drew from various styles to compose his dances.  As the company grew in size and popularity, he invited emergent and world-renowned choreographers to work with him, assuring there would be ample material for touring and performing.

Hubbard Street often engages the same choreographers for years, granting the dancers and the dance maker time to grow together as the work deepens. The first act of the program to be presented at theVan Duzer, THREE TO MAX, is the work of Ohad Naharin, artistic director of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company. Since 2000 Naharin has restaged a number of his dances for Hubbard Street, allowing the company to become fully immersed in his approach.

Batsheva and Israeli contemporary dance are known for unflinching athletic daring, etched with intimate details and gestures of vulnerability, as though the dancers' muscles themselves are emoting.  With dancers barefoot and costumed in street clothes, the moody THREE TO MAX looks like a postmodern village of wanderers finding each other through exposing the secret of a shared language. The composition includes portions of two recent Naharin creations, Three (2005) and Max (2007), reworking into a new dance for Hubbard Street in 2011.

Act II of the program reveals a progression. Sharon Eyal danced for Naharin and Batsheba for many years before becoming the company's resident choreographer. Committed to supporting and developing the work of international artists, Hubbard Street commissioned Eyal to create Too Beaucoup.  It raised an enormous grant to bring Eyal and an entire creative team -- her co-choreographer Gaï  Behar, and her lighting, music and costume designers -- from Israel to Chicago to work with the company. 

Very chic, very hip, its loaded soundtrack runs through Gang of Four, Vicious Pink, Depeche Mode, Leonard Cohen, Cole Porter, Vice, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers and Oren Barzilay. Clothed in flesh-colored unitards, platinum wigs and white contact lenses, this corps looks like a herd of aliens. At the same time, with every muscle visibly rippling or contorting inside the spandex armor, this group organism couldn't be more obviously human, eerily so, moving from the robotic to hip shimmying and shaking en masse. This program reveals a dance lineage, Naharin and Eyal, around 20 years apart in age. It should be fascinating to see how the student has grown from the teacher. For those who want to see what is happening in the dance world right now, today, this is the show to see.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Tuesday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m., the Van Duzer Theatre on the HSU campus. Tickets adult $45, child $25, HSU student $15, available on-line at and by calling the university ticket office at (707) 826-3928


Looking Ahead

Be sure to catch a second run of last winter's highly attended Short Stories, a collection of minute-long dances in the Bring Your Own Seat Series. Following longtime modern dance fixture Bonnie Hossack's departure to Austin, Texas, Laura Muñoz has taken over as director of this small but meaty concert series. Details are still in the works, but many of the same crew of local choreographers are in, planning new dances for their 60 seconds of fame in a format that encourages everyone to experiment. March 2 and 3 at 8 p.m. at the Pan Arts Studio at the intersection of K Street and Samoa Boulevard in Arcata.

Year Two for Dance Ink Day.  If you've seen a dance performance, gone to a play, schmoozed at an art opening or boogied during a musical event on the North Coast, chances are the Ink People were involved.  Support this indispensable nonprofit arts organization by checking out its benefit Dance Ink Day, a four-hour marathon of continuous dance performances. Last year's program included jazz, ballet, modern, hip-hop,  spoken word, aerial,  hoop, and  belly dancing, improvisation and a mini-Samba parade, all choreographed and performed by talent from around the county. The Ink People Center for the Arts Second Annual Dance Ink Day, March 30, from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Redwood Raks World Dance Studio, Ninth and L streets in Arcata. Ten bucks at the door gets you an in and out pass. For more information e-mail [email protected].

This is an on year for the HSU Dance Program's collaboration with lighting, set and costume design graduate students. Every other spring, HSU's unique interdisciplinary studies program allows student and faculty choreographers to join with an artistic team. Under the direction of dance department head Sharon Butcher, the concert is always a visual and movement adventure. Lucky for us -- out in the real world this would take major bucks to pull off. HSU Annual Spring Dance Concert, April 4-6 and 11-13 at 7:30 p.m., April 7 at 2 p.m., Van Duzer Theater on the HSU campus. For information  (707) 826-3566 or


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