Hubbard Street dances with the violins
One of the highlights of a season that has been speckled with gems happens this weekend as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago brings its powerful interpretations to life with the St. Louis Symphony.
Under the artistic direction of Glenn Edgerton since 2009, the company comes to Powell Hall as it celebrates 34 years as one of the most original and forward-thinking forces in contemporary dance. What began at the urging of a small group of devoted young artists in 1977, today stands on the national and even international stage of repertoire while continuing to nurture the next generation of dancers, choreographers and educators.
What makes this collaboration so special?
"I love their energy combined with such gravity-defying grace!" Symphony Conductor David Robertson said. "It is the same thing the St. Louis Symphony is known for." Bringing these two musical companies together creates its own energy, according to Edgerton, Hubbard Street's director.
"Proximity," he said. "The key is proximity, as in the dancers are right in the middle of the orchestra and, as a result, art flows exponentially."
Edgerton describes the powerful collaboration as if he were elaborating on the moment when lightning struck Franklin's key.
"As the dancers work directly with the musicians on stage, their connection is kinetic," he said. "The performance swells, creating an emotion and an energy that is truly profound."
For Edgerton, the members of the symphony "dance."
"The visual of the violins all moving with the music and the cellists and the conductor â it is breathtaking," he explained. "There is such a rich outpouring â the mix of dance, of music, of the two melding together â it is really quite a stunning expression of art."
Among the works this weekend, Hubbard Street will perform a series of dances by Italian Baroque composers Arcangelo Corelli and Alessandro Scarlatti. A master of the violin, Corelli's style strongly influenced the development of the violin and future violin-composers.
"These pieces meld together, finishing with Scarlatti that will feature the symphony's countertenor David Stephens," Edgerton said.
Known for his operas and chamber cantatas, Scarlatti left quite a legacy in music as both the father and mentor of composers, a link between early Baroque of the 17th century and the classical school of the 18th century and one of the first composers to display an understanding of the psychology of modulation and phrasing in the world of opera.
Interestingly enough, Scarlatti is also the namesake of Robert Lundlum's "The Scarlatti Inheritance," the first of 25 thrillers by the American author.
During the performances, the power and legacy of both composers will be evident in the work of the musicians as well as the dancers. Along with these pieces, the company collaborated with the symphony to bring unique and emotionally complex rendering to the stage.
"Within Her Arms" was originally done as a single title with dance and music by Anna Clyne. When the Hubbard collaborated with the Chicago Symphony in December, Terence Marling transformed it into" twice (once)" to accommodate the symphony's presence on the stage. It is a new rendering, as a result, according to Edgerton."It is a really beautiful piece that she created for her mother who passed away," Edgerton said. "It is an elegy in expression to the death of her mother."
Marling's "twice once," grew out of conundrum, he explained. The original choreography of Clyne's piece would not work on the stage with both the dancers and the Symphony. Marling recast the dance with the music to take full advantage of the symphony and its stage presence.
"Twice, once" has a different feel from the original," Edgerton explained. "You can imagine how important the music is to the dance."
Pieces like these are what make the performance so exhilarating to prepare and to perform, he noted.
"It is beautiful to tie quality musicians to our dancers," he said. "The symphony, the musicians and even the audience become completely immersed in the dance."
Though space becomes a premium when preparing for this sort of performance, the opportunity to work with high caliber musicians makes the challenge worth the effort all the more, Edgerton explained.
"You don't put a world class symphony like the St. Louis Symphony in the pit â that would be a travesty," he said. "Working with a conductor like David Robertson is truly a pleasure. He will guide the whole process. There is such a wonderful energy that comes from the collaboration â it is just fantastic!"
Edgerton summed up his expectations of the audience's experience this way: "The result is a performance that is in turns gorgeous, complex, simple, refined, uncomplicated and intricate. It is a complete celebration of collaborative art, bringing the visual in the forms of the company and costumes, as well as the musicians that is enlivened with the ethereal auditory and kinetic expression of the dancers and symphony together. What could be more exciting?"
Elizabeth Harris Krasnoff is a freelance writer. To reach her, contact Beacon features and commentary editor Donna Korando.