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Hubbard Street 2

'Hallaig', 'I Wantchu Kool, Cuz U Blow My Mind', 'The Restless', 'Sight Unseen', 'Blues for Ann'

by Carmel Morgan

March 30, 2007 -- Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center, Memphis, Tennessee

Hubbard Street 2, the second company of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, is celebrating its tenth anniversary season this year. The junior company, presently composed of six dancers ranging between the ages of 18 and 24, is in the midst of a national and international tour, which included an appearance at the Buckman Performing and Fine Arts Center in Memphis, Tennessee on March 30, 2007.

Part of Hubbard Street 2’s mission is to identify and nurture young choreographers. Since 1999 the company has sponsored an annual choreographic competition, and some of the works created as a result of this competition are in the current repertoire.

“Hallaig,” choreographed by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Brian Enos, was the first piece on the Memphis program. To the sounds of Celtic pipes and a mournful Scottish poem, a quartet clothed in shades of blue and gray swept across the stage. The female dancers became sylphlike brooms in the men’s arms. The dance was both buoyant and melancholy, with curving gestures that circled the dancers’ heads. 

The next piece, Kristofer Weinstein Storey’s “I Wantchu Kool, Cuz U Blow My Mind,” was much more lighthearted. One duet about relationships followed another, both set to the pop vocals of Bobby McFerrin singing Beatles songs. The first duet, performed by Kira Rae Blazek and Hogan McLaughlin, was playful and culminated in a kiss. The second duet, performed by James E. Johnson and Donna Michelle Vaughn, highlighted the tension of desire.          

The final piece before intermission was “The Restless,” by Christian Spuck, resident choreographer for Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet. This work was performed by the entire ensemble, all in black. In contrast to the abundance of black, the bare chests of the men and the arms of the women in sleeveless tops beautifully captured the light. The dancers, like musical notes come to life, made visible Bach’s Allegro from the Sonata No. 2 for Solo Violin. 

The second half opened with “Sight Unseen,” a poignant duet choreographed by New York City Ballet soloist Edward Liang. Tiffany Vann, in a long white shirt, and Philip John Orsano, in white pants, mirrored each other in a multitude of ways. To the spiritual music of Arvo Pärt and the all male Tsinandali Choir, the pair danced fluidly. They were initially separated by an invisible wall and did not see each other. Ultimately the two became entwined by layers of hands and arms. They finally embraced, stared longingly at their other half, and joined for a triumphant lift.   

For the final piece of the evening, Hubbard Street 2 gave its audience a sneak preview of “Blues for Ann,” a new work by Harrison McEldowney performed to live blues recordings from the 1940s and 50s. Colorful period costumes and animated faces accompanied jazz and swing-inspired movement. The piece was full of humor and spark. James E. Johnson rolled Donna Michelle Vaughn between his feet, not knowing what to do with the woman he discovered on his floor that morning. “Blues for Ann” suits the youthful troupe well, as it enables them to twist, turn, flip, and flirt throughout.

Hubbard Street 2’s artists in training gave a heartfelt performance. While the exuberance of dancers who are just starting their careers is definitely appealing, one also looks forward to seeing these young dancers mature.

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