Multilingual in Movement

Hubbard Street Dance returns with an international program

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Rehearsal of
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Rehearsal of "Petit Mort" by Jiří Kylián at the Harris Theater in Chicago. (Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Dance is its own language, with a specific vocabulary, set of phrases, and idioms. So when audience members aren't native speakers, parsing the nuances of that language can be a challenge. How does one distinguish whether the quality of the movement is mediocre, good, or great? With Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, there's no question.

This 37-year-old troupe can be counted on for consistent excellence, bringing forth a stellar performance night after night, regardless of the choreographer’s style.

Contemporary dance companies typically present either the namesake work of a sole choreographer, as with the companies founded by Merce Cunningham or Mark Morris, or dances by multiple choreographers through commissions and licensing. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago does the latter and has expertly trained its dancers to be, effectively, multilingual. Imagine a diplomat in the foreign service fluent in every tongue in Europe or, in musical terms, an ensemble like the Kronos Quartet that can play musical selections from J.S. Bach to Philip Glass to Jimi Hendrix.

It's rare for a dance company to be this versatile. (And it's the reason that Hubbard Street has been entrusted with Twyla Tharp’s classic works like Nine Sinatra Songs, The Golden Section, and Baker’s Dozen.) Hubbard Street knows how to dive beneath the surface of work and communicate deep emotional conveyances, and it can jump between the styles of multiple choreographers in an evening. It's as hard a feat to carry off as speaking French, Mandarin, and Ngbaka in a single conversation.

Hubbard Street returns to Austin this week with a program of work by international choreographers: Czech native Jiří Kylián’s Sarabande (1990) and Falling Angels (1989); Gnawa (2005) by the Spaniard Nacho Duato; and Pacopeppepluto (2011) and Cloudless (2013), both by Alejandro Cerrudo, also of Spain.

Sarabande in particular will be a sight to see for its emotional timing and starkness. Here is an excerpt performed by Nederlands Dans Theater.

If you are new to dance or perhaps want to step out of your comfort zone where the form is concerned, here is an opportunity to experience a varied evening of movement by one of the most fluent companies around.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs Thursday, Jan. 29, 8pm, in Bass Concert Hall, 2350 East Campus Dr., UT campus. (800) 982-BEVO. UT Theatre & Dance Department faculty member Andrea Beckham will give a pre-performance lecture at 7pm in the Bass Concert Hall Lobby. For more information, call 512/477-6060 or visit Texas Performing Arts.

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Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Texas Performing Arts, contemporary dance, Twyla Tharp

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