Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Israel bill
The company imports an unlikely mix: healing, thrilling contemporary dance.
Both pieces premiere during , a rare case of just two dances on a Hubbard bill. Rarer still is a Naharin “collage” created outside of Batsheva. (Since the late ’90s, Naharin has remixed choreography from throughout his career as often as creating new dances from scratch. Three, from 2005, is just one piece to be part of HSDC’s exclusive montage.) Israeli consul general to the Midwest Orli Gil joined a company committee dedicated to the premieres. “It’s not been business as usual,” executive director Jason Palmquist says of the process.
Nor has it been cheap. Nearly half a million dollars went into the Israel project but, while expensive, the pieces are a shrewd investment. Rights are included to perform both works, at home and on tour, through March 2014.
Despite bulletproof appeal to audiences and critics, in early stages these works are as fragile as spun sugar. Dance studios’ mirrors create and reinforce preoccupations with how a movement looks as opposed to how it feels, thus the first order of business for recent rehearsals was to cover them with curtains and tape cardboard over the windows. TOC was not allowed to observe or video Eyal and Inao’s Gaga classes, held in the morning to prepare the dancers for work.
The Gaga phenomenon mirrors other paradigm shifts in dance history, with its growing legion of devotees and magnetic central figure (who just so happens to have a deep, gravelly voice and piercing eyes exuding a coiled intensity). Batsheva’s cofounder, American choreographer Martha Graham, triggered one such turning point in the 1940s. But there’s a crucial difference between Naharin and previous pioneers. Gaga, he says, is backward-compatible, inviting dancers to tap their existing skills in healthy, surprising and creative new ways.
“I agree with people who think that movement is something that shouldn’t hurt the body. Movement can heal the body, even if it’s very strenuous. But it doesn’t mean that what I do contradicts ballet, for example, even at its most mannered.” Nodding to Graham—who brought Naharin from Israel to New York in 1975, where he stayed for 15 years—and renowned American ballet teachers Richard Rapp and Stanley Williams, Naharin says time has reshaped his understanding of the classical and high-modern methodologies he once thought it necessary to discard.
“It’s my responsibility to show solutions,” he declares. “A sense of how easy it is to go from one way of dancing to another. One body, with different buttons you can push to do different things.”
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Spring Series runs Thursday 17–Sunday 20 at the