30 Years of Peter Martins: Balanchine’s Successor Has Had His Ups and Downs

Hubbard Street: Dance Chicago goes on, and on, and on at the Joyce

We’re in the midst of a two-week season at the Joyce of the highly successful Hubbard Street: Dance Chicago. Why this success? I’d like to ascribe it to the company, 19 strong, who are so hard-working, so devoted. But they’re not charismatic enough to explain it, and there are no stars. It has—sigh!—to be the nature of the repertory: tons of propulsion, a gallon of angst, too often a very dark stage (to show how serious things are), uninteresting music (to which no one pays much attention), and a whole lot of conviction. These people really think they’re doing something important.

There’s a piece, Untouched, by the respected (though not by me) Aszure Barton, who, the program notes tell us, developed the choreography before selecting the (sentimental) music, which, it turned out, would be by Njo Kong Kie, Curtis Macdonald, and “Ljova.” The women made the most of their slit skirts. There was sliding, squatting, fluttering of hands. Lots of intense contortion. Ana Lopez was Spanishy leading the concluding section. What’s it all about, Aszure?

There’s a nice piece by an ex-Hubbard dancer, Robyn Mineko Williams, that shows a flair for invention and a becoming modesty. And a piece by Alejandro Cerrudo, a current dancer, also the resident choreographer, in which three men in flesh-colored unitards, looking naked in the semi-dark, do solos to Dean Martin versions of “Memories are Made of This,” “In the Chapel in the Moonlight,” and “That’s Amore”—the point, presumably, the contrast between the sexiness of the dancers and the corniness of the music.

Following the three dancers in flesh-colored unitards came 16 dancers in flesh-colored unitards in something called Too Beaucoup by the Israeli couple Sharon Eyal and Gaï Behar. The dancers also sported tight platinum blond wigs and white contact lenses. Defying the gloom, they marched, they strutted, they jogged—nothing could stop them. This went on so long that I might have lost consciousness if I hadn’t been so pissed off at the arrogance of these people thinking they had anything at all to say, let alone this much. Too Beaucoup may not be the worst ballet of the year, but it’s hands down the most boring.

The two longest works, together on Program B, are by the well-known choreographers Ohad Naharin and Mats Ek. The Naharin is called Three to Max because it’s a blend of two of his previous works, Three and Max, one of which I’ve seen at Fall for Dance, though I can’t remember which one. The whole thing is a jumble of earnest energy. Naharin can be interesting, but not this time out.

The Ek has at least the advantage of novelty. How many ballets have you seen in which five women dance with vacuum cleaners? Or in which a baby doll is extracted by its mother from a smoking oven? Of course, this raises the question of how many such novelties you want to see. Casi-Casa, also apparently two different ballets at one time, is a series of surreal episodes. But here the disjointedness doesn’t matter. Do we care in what order we watch the smoking oven, the door that separates a tormented couple who climb all over each other until they decide not to, and the chaise longue, in and out of which slithers a guy on whose head a lady places a brown bowler? Some of all this is fun, some of it irritating, some of it just silly, but it has one advantage—it’s brightly lit.

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