Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at Wolf Trap

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Eight dancers paused on an open-air stage. The curtain is up. No music, yet. A rustle from a small, brown mass as far downstage as can be: a bird, flicking wings. One more sits near the other quarter mark then flies out into the transitioning day. A drum beat starts. Dancers, in profile, run slowly in place, birds caught in time. Pause. Arms, bent at the elbows, flick one by one across the stage—the way one flock shivers its feathers in unison. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago warped, torqued and evaded time at Wolf Trap this week, its choreography and dancing enhanced by the out of doors the venue let in.

The percussive beat never relented for the rest of Jiří Kylián’s “Falling Angels,” nor did the technical prowess of the eight featured dancers. Though rooted in a strong allegro feeling (high-powered jumping and a faster tempo to the steps), classical ballet melted into comedic, even spunky moments. The ensemble formed a long row and peeked out from behind each other another, their port de bras through fifth position brushing into a wave to the audience, and even snapped their black leotards at several points, as if to say, “No, we are not dancing to this drum, but to our own rhythm.”

Jessica Tong, right, and Ana Lopez in 'Falling Angels' by Jiří Kylián. Photo by Todd Rosenberg
Jessica Tong, right, and Ana Lopez in ‘Falling Angels’ by Jiří Kylián. Photo by Todd Rosenberg

Johnny McMillan, David Schultz, and Jonathan Fredrickson commanded Alejandro Cerrudo’s “Pacopepepluto” with controlled passion. Dean Martin’s lilting croon marked each solo with an air of nostalgia. Fredrickson worked with particular poise, his leg suspending like a pendulum in developpé in the in-betweens. Instead of a final pose, the curtain came down on him running across the stage, on ongoing action, to “That’s Amore,” as if McMillan and Schultz were waiting for him not offstage, but in the stage of grass beyond that the moon was lighting.

The beauty swirling through Robyn Mineko Williams’ “Waxing Moon,” created its own gravitational pull.  A chair downstage left for Andrew Murdock became a portal to another space—not performative, but ethereal. To a pulsing, electronic beat, Murdock stood on the chair and rotated almost a full three-hundred sixty degrees before Fredrickson appeared and pushed him away—with no physical touch, but an invisible force from his sinewy arms.

Jacqueline Burnett also circled into their orbit. In a pas de deux with Murdock, she squeezed with artful purpose into his negative space to proclaim her own. They spoke through their arms, asserting one on top of the other in a Jenga battle of stellar proportions. The rising energy waned back to a lyrical lull. Murdock and Burnett were not man and woman in a moving lift, but star and star in a cosmic rotation. The curtain closed, again, as they continued to turn—not onstage, but transported, into a stage of universe beyond the one the moon had lit.

Those performances are rare, when the spectators’ chairs become portals in themselves—when performance, as a word, fails to capture the emotional uplift and illumination the dancing generates. Surrounded by nature, we were witnesses to the glimpses of our human one shooting past.

Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes, including two intermissions.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was performed on Wednesday, June 24, 2015 at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts, 1645 Trap Road, Vienna, VA. For future events, go to their website.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif