Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Israel bill
The company imports an unlikely mix: healing, thrilling contemporary dance.
“Feel juicy,” Yoshifumi Inao says softly as he swings his arms across his body to the right while pointing his bent knees to the left. Seven of HSDC’s eight female members echo the move behind him in a second-floor studio at the company’s West Loop headquarters. They’re learning a delicate, meditative sequence from a dance called Three; in four weeks, they’ll perform it at the Harris Theater as part of what HSDC calls “one of the most culturally significant initiatives” in its 34-year history.
Inao is teaching the Three excerpt and other recent choreographies on behalf of their creator, Ohad Naharin, artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv. (Formerly a Batsheva dancer and briefly its associate director, Inao now stages Naharin’s works.) The instruction to “feel juicy” isn’t just a helpful mental image: Along with cutting-edge composition, potent stagecraft and unpredictable soundtracks, Naharin, 58, is known for a complete rethinking of movement categorization called Gaga.
In Gaga (no relation to the pop goddess), organic momentum trumps flash and force. Even if barely noticeable, the entire body is in a constant state of motion. Reflexes, and natural responses like reverberation, are embraced, although not exaggerated. Often satisfying—Naharin tells dancers to “connect to pleasure”—Gaga even proves effective asand other diseases.
Which isn’t to say it’s always gentle. Gaga also facilitates access to serious horsepower and, two weeks earlier in the same room, nothing resembled the Zen-like atmosphere of Inao’s rehearsal. The entire company had assembled to finish Too Beaucoup by Naharin’s protégé, Sharon Eyal.
Eyal’s collaborator and partner of seven years, Gaï Behar, stood to her right wearing an enormous Raiders parka. Beyond him, bearded and flanneled like a server at a restaurant with an ampersand in its name, DJ Ori Lichtik manned a jerry-rigged sound board jacked into the studio’s speaker system, belching a rough cut of Beaucoup’s relentlessly thumping score. Fifteen dancers marched in lockstep while sharply changing directions—militaristic except for irregular, sassy hip throws. Groups filed in from each side, chopping the air with distorted semaphore gestures.
From her perch atop a ballet barre, Eyal, 39, jumped to her feet and drew a finger across her throat. The beats stopped, revealing the rasp of the dancers’ heaving breaths. Behar, Eyal and Lichtik huddled, while HSDC rehearsal director Terence Marling listened in. Company artistic director Glenn Edgerton beckoned Marling over. “What happened?” he asked.
“Don’t know,” Marling responded, shrugging. “My Hebrew’s not so good.”