Hubbard Street dancers Jessica Tong and Yarden Ronen improvise in IIT’s Crown Hall.
I hear there are still a few spaces open to the public for the Hubbard Street-IIT show this weekend at Crown Hall. (For tickets, call 312-850-9744.) It’s a noteworthy pairing—and not just because Hubbard Street is the city’s leading contemporary company.
Over the past few years writing about culture, I’ve interviewed a number of dancers and choreographers who talk about the influence of architecture on their art. The first time someone mentioned it—it might have been the Chicago-born (New York-based) choreographer Lar Lubovich—I remember thinking how incongruent it sounded. I mean, a building is a fixed thing; a dancer is anything but.
Turns out, dance history is full of such collaborations, most notably Martha Graham and the sculptor Isamu Noguchi. They worked together on more than 20 of Graham’s works, and by “collaborate,” I don’t mean that he designed a pretty stage attribute after the choreography had been set. They influenced each other.
If you’ve lived here for any amount of time, your brain has probably absorbed more information about architecture than you even realize. It’s almost impossible not to soak something up, considering by what we’re surrounded on a daily basis: from Mies to Gehry to (soon) Renzo Piano.
And while great architecture is, for many of us, a fixed backdrop around which we go about our day, it’s interesting to think about what happens when architecture students collaborate with boundary-pushing choreographers and lithe dancers who can stretch and contort just about any way; what the hell happens? That’s what will be on display this weekend inside the modernist landmark Crown Hall on the IIT campus.
Check it out if you’re around. For months, the architecture students worked with three Hubbard Street choreographers; the poor architects even had to take movement classes! The dancers, in turn, poured over drawings and adjusted their movement to fit the design (which was described to me as a “rolling terrain that comes down from the ceiling”—whatever that means.) Architecture prof Dirk Denison, who is in charge of the project on the IIT side, told me that they jumped at the chance to work with the dancers: “The whole concept of [Crown Hall] is that it is transformable into practically any use. That’s one motivation, to see dance in the space. Another is to see the process of another creative art. Our process of making decisions in architecture is very different from [in dance]. Dancers have to make a quick decision one way or another, where our process is much more kind of research-based, with analysis, and deciding what the larger influences on a project are. There is rational refinement. So it’s really beneficial and broadening for architecture students to see another way of making design decisions and to see another way of being creative.”
I am completely geeking out right now. I love it when people talk about the creative process.
Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp