Hubbard Street Dance Chicago racks up arts partners
One of the most deeply networked organizations in town keeps its dance card full.
“We’re used to a certain amount of vanity here,” says Mary Sue Glosser, creative director of the Department of Lecture and Performance Programs at the Art Institute of Chicago. “We bring in [painter-photographer] Chuck Close, and he talks about Chuck Close.” Dancers, she’s found, are a different breed.
One of Glosser’s favorite pictures in a collection she’s seen nearly every day since joining the museum in 1988 is Old Man with a Gold Chain, a portrait painted by Rembrandt 357 years earlier. “Since coming to know Hubbard Street [Dance Chicago], I see Rembrandt differently,” she says. “There’s a noble humility in that picture that they understand. There’s no vanity with Hubbard Street. They just come in and respond.”
In galleries during the museum’s extended evening hours Thursday 20, company dancers will improvise in response to a portrait, a landscape and a sculpture. It will be the 13th time the main or second company has performed there, through a partnership launched in conjunction with the opening of the museum’s Modern Wing in May 2009. At Hubbard’s West Loop facility, Glosser has shown slides and talked art with the dancers, providing insights that HSDC member Benjamin Wardell sums up in one word, repeated four times: “amazing.”
Glosser, HSDC artistic administrator Kristen Brogdon and director Glenn Edgerton decide jointly how to merge the missions of both entities, with help from their staffs and Art Institute director James Cuno. HSDC has a similar partnership, in its seventh year, with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and an ongoing affiliation with the Illinois Institute of Technology. A raft of additional relationships, mostly stewarded by its education and outreach departments, include the Chicago Children’s Museum, Chicago Botanic Garden, Chicago Public Schools, Center on Halsted, Hyde Park Art Center, UIC and still more in development that executive director Jason Palmquist opts to keep under wraps.
Palmquist can’t say exactly how much the company’s affability increases subscriptions and single-ticket sales to its mainstay: HSDC’s quarterly Harris Theater runs. But “we’re building engagement by engagement,” he says, “and attendance [at the Harris] is up over 30 percent over the past three years. I can’t imagine that these sorts of projects aren’t driving at least some of that progress.”
In the Hague, L.A. and Washington, D.C., where Edgerton and Palmquist worked prior to Chicago, neither were involved with or recall cross-disciplinary collaborations that match the scope and depth of Hubbard Street’s. “Either it’s Chicago,” Edgerton says, “or it’s a sign of the times.” For Palmquist, it’s the people. “There are a number of conveners here. I see my administrative colleagues much more often in Chicago than I ever did in Washington. The nature of the arts ecology in this city is one of interest.”
Over the course of the company’s Art Institute events, Wardell has choreographed three works so far. One was inspired by a 1936 Salvador Dalí canvas Glosser was surprised any dancer would choose: A Chemist Lifting with Extreme Precaution the Cuticle of a Grand Piano. An elderly figure not unlike Rembrandt’s old man sits in its foreground. “There’s virtually no movement [in the painting],” Wardell says. “But there’s this really strong light coming from one side that gives a sense of time moving around. This stationary object gives the impression of moving everything around it.”
See Hubbard Street Dance Chicago at the Art Institute of Chicago Thursday 20.