Now celebrating its 45th anniversary, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents Refraction, a mixed bill of contemporary works consisting of the world premiere of Chicago choreographer Randy Duncan’s Love Infinite, The Windless Hold by Osnel Delgado, and Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Dichotomy of a Journey—for one weekend only at the Harris Theater. With a program composed of works created in the past three years, the company under the leadership of artistic director Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell seems to be evolving away from the cut-glass precision and Eurocentricity that has for many years been its signature and toward a commitment to the legacy and the here-and-now of Chicago and American dance.
Refraction Through 10/2: Fri-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph, 312-334-7777, harristheaterchicago.org, $15-$110
Stripes of light form a diagonal passage within which two figures begin in The Windless Hold, as if to visualize vibrations emanating from their journey or barriers to it, a glimpse of a story that rapidly yields as the ensemble enters the stage, and dancers clothed in velour move sculpturally to arrive in shapely embraces that form and disintegrate. A solo danced by Jacqueline Burnett acts as a fulcrum in the work—within a circle of light, she becomes the center of gravity for the roil of others who circulate but do not touch her. A duet with Jack Henderson is punctuated by light (designed by Manuel Da Silva), a rapid lift into a briefly intensifying gleam is breathtaking in its simplicity, a reach from one to the other as the light falls makes an otherwise abstract work into an essay on yearning.
Jack Henderson and Jacqueline Burnett in Osnel Delgado’s The Windless Hold Credit: Michelle Reid
Love Infinite, Duncan’s first work for Hubbard Street, opens with a focus on new HSDC dancer Shota Miyoshi, moving in an urgent solo in front of a horizon of standing dancers within a mist of light as if refracted through a waterfall. Miyoshi is magnetic, the generous pulse of this work—as the others join his energetic field, the stage becomes alive with the action that so characterizes Duncan’s work, in which masses of bodies animate and indicate an environment, simultaneously an ocean filled with schools of fish and the whirl and swirl of urban life, athletic and balletic and crowd-pleasing. Within a work that could render an individual anonymous, whether by himself or in a crowd, radiant Miyoshi has the time of his life, and we can’t help but get ours with him. There is no subtlety about Love Infinite; it is designed to dazzle, and it does.
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Dichotomy of a Journey as part of the Refraction program at Harris Theater. Credit: Michelle Reid
The most mature work on the program, Dichotomy of a Journey appeals visually and viscerally, moving dancers in vermilion through a transformative arc from isolation to collective liberation by episodes. “Connection” brings a couple (Burnett and David Schultz) to touch at the elbow, a joint that can’t grasp or hold, a closeness from which they sometimes recoil, sometimes effloresce, illustrating the range of tenderness and its relationship to consent. “Vision,” the central solo (danced at opening by Elliot Hammans), embodies hope as a form of abjection, an isolated body contorted with the reception of an intuition or emotion heavy with greatness. And “Resilience” brings four individuals (Alexandria Best, Aaron Choate, Henderson, and Miyoshi) to lead a movement into joy—with breathtaking virtuosity affirming and never overwhelming the human spirit.