Photograph: Franck Thibault/Lines Ballet
The joint act (tickets on sale here) offers double the dancers of this physical caliber, thrilling even the most neophyte dancegoer with their leaps, cleanly executed pirouettes, and extensions of long limbs until their toes almost scratch the spotlights.
Alonzo King LINES and Hubbard Street also occupy a similar niche in the contemporary dance universe. Both are longstanding professional companies based in major cities that aren’t New York, which comes with its own benefits (a committed audience, resources) and challenges (it’s harder to cross-pollinate creatively).
There, the similarities between the groups end. That’s where it gets interesting.
The fact that the two companies have united for a double-bill (which they premiered in Berkeley in February) is smart. Finding ways to cross-pollinate is smart. And giving the dance ticket buyer more bang for the buck (tickets are $25 and up)—that’s something many companies would be wise to experiment with.
On the bill, Alonzo King LINES is performing Rasa, a complicated and anxiety-filled ensemble piece set to an original Indian percussion score by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain. It’s dark, well danced, and perplexing.
Now imagine the complete opposite and you get it: Hubbard Street’s Little Mortal Jump, by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, a playful ode to duets that’s sometimes sweet, sometimes overly saccharine. It’s pretty clear what’s going on most of the time. And, yes, that is Andrew Bird music that you’re hearing.
The two companies come together for a big finale, Azimuth, choreographed by Alonzo King and commissioned by the Harris Theatre for its 10th anniversary. Azimuth has many moments of brilliance (the section Compass, with Kellie Epperheimer and four men takes the concept of partnering to a whole new beautiful level), but, with dozens of dancers on stage at a time, feels crowded and chaotic.
LINES could stand to borrow a little of that Hubbard Street structure—that loose plot that keeps people interested after the few-minute mark. And Hubbard Street could lose some of the cuteness and the distracting bells and whistles (here: dramatic stark lighting, props)—these elements soften the blow that these dancers could otherwise deliver.
Opposites attract. We all know how that usually ends. This one isn’t perfect—but it’s still exciting to watch.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at the Harris Theater (205 E. Randolph Drive) tonight at 8 p.m., Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets start at $25.