The Rockford audience joins in the dance!

The Rockford audience joins in the dance!

By Georgia Pampel, Music Critic

On Wednesday night, September 25, Community Concerts opened their new season with the dance troupe called “Hubbard Street Dance Chicago”—often shortened to “HSDC”. Founded in 1977, and begun with a small group testing their talents with visits to entertain in nursing homes, the company now travels worldwide with a budget topping 4 million dollars. I’m afraid that I was heavily conditioned in my youth to look for the tutus, tours jetés and toe-shoes of classical ballet, and I still sometimes have a bit of trouble relating to the odd positions and moves that have evolved in the 20th century’s on going efforts to expand the language of dance.

A few of the words used in connection with the HSDC give us some idea of

what to expect—innovative, inventive, exuberant, athletic, cutting-edge, and I would now add, always spell-binding. A friend who has seen the group many times reports that it is always a new and different experience, new experiments, and never repetitive. So, dance fans return again and again to

keep up with the troupe’s wide range of expression.

The opening work, set against an abstract and shadowy drop, and accompanied by vocal recitations, recalled the angular expansive moves that I recall from college “master classes” with visiting dancers Pearl Primus and José Limon, (the knowledgeable among my readers now can guess how long ago THAT was!). Moves and positions that seemed to stress the varied ways the human body can form new shapes and combine with other bodies into even more complex structures, while bathing it all in sounds that combined the human voice (in what language?) with gurgles, wind sounds, and odd instruments (African? East Asian?) to let us know we were here for a new experience.

Shadows, too, became part of the whole. At one point, there were three squares that appeared, then were revealed as silken panels that served as costume elements when the dancers concealed behind them emerged.

As the evening progressed, however, the humor became a stronger element, as the program was clearly designed to entice a new audience. While the music may be drawn at times from Mozart, the accents somehow made it sound off-beat, and what are those elegant 18th-century gowns doing there, without any heads? Oh, here come the heads, male dancers stepping into place behind the costume, appearing to wear them—until the costumes glide offstage on their own. Later they will return, but one of them will be raised up with head, arms, and long skinny legs holding it aloof above the other gown, looking down in disdain.

At another point, two lines of dancers went down into the audience only to return with amazed audience members as dancing partners. The trained dancers started by dancing around the group of Rockford Community Concert fans—including a few grandmothers, a couple of school children, and all

shapes and sizes and ages in between—and then gradually drew them into moving a bit, then soon had them all dancing freely on stage, enjoying the liberated sensation more and more as they discovered what fun it could be.

Throughout the evening, there was a repeated sense of what we might call

“ordered chaos”—from where I sat in the balcony, it was clear that measured lines across the stage helped give the dancers some sense of their relative spacing, so that there was always an underlying discipline to avoid total disaster.

At one point, a line of dancers flowed back and forth across the stage, leaving one soloist standing alone at each pass, to tell the dancer’s individual story. Whenever anyone might ask why one would pursue a career in dance, or even go to see others do it, I shall remember one quote from the evening: “I do this for the sheer pleasure of dancing.”

A good enough reason, right?

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