The company’s 2011 appearance in Santa Barbara was one of the highlights of the performing arts season. Next week, UCSB’s Arts & Lectures brings Hubbard Street Dance Chicago back to the Granada Theatre. In anticipation of the group’s return, artistic director Glenn Edgerton spoke with me about the program, his investment in up-and-coming choreographers, and his commitment to pushing the boundaries of modern dance.
There are two works on this program by Alejandro Cerrudo, a young choreographer who’s also a member of your company. Tell me more about him. Alejandro has been our resident choreographer for several years now and has been quite prolific during that time. He made a full evening-length work last fall, “One Thousand Pieces,” which came out beautifully, and was just named number-one dance program for 2012 by a reviewer here at Chicago Tribune.
On this program, he has two works. “PACOPEPEPLUTO” takes its name from the names of three men — or shall I say characters — each of whom gets his own solo. It’s set to the music of Dean Martin, and it’s a very endearing piece: choreographically inventive but with a sense of humor and aliveness that has proved to be entertaining for the audience.
His other work on this program is “Blanco,” which is a thought-provoking piece for four women — there’s more depth and weight to it.
Santa Barbara dance fans will be excited to see a work by Aszure Barton on the program. Tell me about “Untouched.” Aszure choreographed “Untouched” on Hubbard Street three years ago. It’s a very personal work. She fashioned it to the personalities of the dancers in the company, and she credits them as co-choreographers. A lot of the work was built around improvisational techniques; she’d give a task to the dancer, and whatever came out of it, she molded and coached and arranged into what is this really beautiful piece with terrific atmosphere. There’s a big red curtain in the background, evoking the idea that the dance is taking place either backstage or at the very front of the stage. The gowns that the ladies wear are very elegant. It’s a beautiful-looking work.
Can you talk a bit about Mats Ek’s “Casi-Casa?” Mats’s work is choreographically unique. His style is unlike anyone else’s, and I’m very proud to be the first American company bringing his work to the U.S. The title “Casi-Casa” translates to “Almost Home.” It’s actually a collage of two works: one he created for the Paris Opera and another for Sweden’s Cullberg Ballet. This is a more challenging piece, with great depth to it. A variety of relationships are expressed through three main duets.
You’re one of the few professional companies that perform year-round. What’s the rationale behind that choice? Yes, our dancers are contracted 52 weeks a year; we’re a full-service company working year-round. We have programs in Chicago at the Harris Theater — our home theater — as well as collaborations and programs with various institutions here in Chicago. Then we have a busy touring schedule, an extensive education program, and classes at the Lou Conte Dance Studio, so we are producing quite a lot throughout the year. The dancers have just four weeks paid vacation in summer and two weeks in winter, and it feels like we still don’t have enough time.
What is your primary goal as artistic director — what is it you keep in mind as you go about your work? My goal for the company is to present work that is going to challenge the dancers, first and foremost. When the dancers are inspired and challenged, that resonates through to audiences. They can see that Hubbard Street is a progressive, far-reaching institution that is taking dance to the next step of what dance can be. That’s my premise for everything we do. Whether it’s a workshop, an educational program, a performance, or a collaborative effort with another performing arts institution here in Chicago, everything we do, we do to carry dance forward.
What do you want your audiences to know? Dance should be an interactive art form. It shouldn’t be just sitting back on your sofa watching a story as you would on television. You’re cultivating your imagination while watching dance, and you need to participate in the experience. Come with an open mind. Come ready to focus and concentrate. The moment the doors close to the theater, leave all your other cares behind and focus on what you’re seeing. That is the best way to experience dance, and the best way to experience Hubbard Street.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at the Granada Theatre (1214 State St.) on Wednesday, January 23, at 8 p.m. For tickets, call (805) 893-3535 or visit artsandlectures.sa.ucsb.edu. The company will also offer a master class at the Gustafson School of Dance on Tuesday, January 22, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. To reserve a space, call (805) 966-6950.