One Thousand Pieces | Dance review
If these windows could move, they might look something like this. Alejandro Cerrudo wanted to achieve something magical with One Thousand Pieces—now playing at the Harris Theater through Sunday—and there’s no doubt he succeeds. Hubbard Street’s young (and humble) resident choreographer spoke with me about creating a world the audience could get lost in. He would use Marc Chagall’s America Windows as inspiration but not prescribe a literal interpretation. Thirty-five years ago, the Windows stood as tribute to the city of Chicago; last night, HSDC also paid tribute to the city. A company that began small now ranks as one of the world’s best contemporary ensembles.
A wash of darkness and mystery in many visceral visions and abstractions, One Thousand Pieces is light in tonality, powerfully dark in force and elegant in delivery. And while I can’t say everything was absolutely perfect, the scope and entirety of the evening are an undeniable achievement for the company (its first evening-length work) and mostly for Cerrudo, who took on an unprecedented project amid unimaginable pressure.
As the curtain rises, a lone dancer holds tight and gets lifted into the air (Jonathan Fredrickson). He releases himself and falls to the floor; a provocative solo follows in spotlight, a seemingly separate entity from the rest of the group. In the background are movable mirrors, reflecting the bodies of the ensemble as they dance among the shadows and the beautiful set pieces of Thomas Mika to the vertigo composition of Philip Glass. It recalls Cerrudo’s Extremely Close, which incorporates sliding panels, as do the many slides and canons, both gripping and delightful but at times repetitive. It borders between signature trait and overused tool, though right now I’m leaning toward signature trait.
During a short interlude, Frederickson gets slowly dropped from the ceiling, strapped to a harness. He recites a whimsical yet somewhat sugary monologue about two star-crossed lovers sitting on a park bench in the night. Later, a water-speckled stage, with a backdrop of waterfall-esque fog, offers another layered dimension before the concluding third act, where the cast of 24 divides in unison into small groups, pairs and solos. As usual, the dancers are fantastic, and well in-tune with Cerrudo's unique aesthetic and movement invention. Hubbard's resident choreographer remains magnetically captivating with his dark element and fluid choreography. Like the Chagall Windows, One Thousand Pieces is a special Chicago treasure.
One Thousand Pieces continues Friday through Sunday at the Harris Theater. Purchase ticekts at harristheaterchicago.org.