Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Brings Two Programs to Cal Performances

What different about this dance company is that that it commissions new work and welcome existing choreographies.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performing Crystal Pite's 'Grace Engine.'

Photo by Todd Rosenberg

American dance, multifarious as it is, for the most part still adheres to a long tradition: Ballet companies perform the work of many choreographers; contemporary dance focuses on their founding director’s choreographies, at least, as long as he or she is still alive. The only one that comes to mind as having bucked that praxis is Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.

For the last 40 years, Hubbard has reached out to commission new work and also to welcome existing choreographies. It was to those Hubbard dancers, for instance, to whom the great Twyla Tharp early on entrusted some of her most iconic work.

Cal Performances’ two upcoming Hubbard programs offer, in the first, a heady mix of haunting, brainy, lyrical, and furiously disruptive choreography. They are presenting the Bay Area premiere of works by two acclaimed Canadian choreographers, Crystal Pite and the very young Emma Portner who has already excelled in commercial, video, film, and theatrical dance.

Starting with program one, Nacho Duato’s first and still most popular choreography, the 1987 Jardi Tancat, is a haunting evocation of country folks’ difficult life to Catalan folk songs. William Forsythe’s N.N.N.N. is a knotty complicated quartet in which the dancers use their bodies as if they didn’t know them. Grace and sensuality perfume Lickety Split, resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo’s deceptively casual take on romantic love. Pite’s Grace Engine will close the evening. She has described her choreography as looking at the male/female stories that endlessly repeat themselves.

Hubbard’s second program includes a medley of excerpts from Portner’s For All Its Fury, Teddy Forance’s Everything Must Go, Ohad Naharin’s evergreen Decadance, Pite’s Brahms solo Solo Echo, and Cerrudo’s male trio PACOPEPEPLUTO to catchy selections from the Dean Martin Songbook. The Third Coast Percussion will start the evening with the instrumental “Perfectly Voiceless” and will also premiere a score for the Portner/Forance selection.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Program One: Fri., Jan. 18, 8 p.m., and Sun., Jan. 20, 3 p.m. Program Two: Sat., Jan. 19, 8 p.m., Cal Performances, Berkeley, $39-$78, 510-642-9988,

This report was originally published in our sister publication, the East Bay Monthly.

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