This isn't Swan Lake. And Hubbard Street Dance Company is OK with that. The contemporary dance troupe, based out of Chicago, appreciates ballet's classics, but they're looking for the future choreography masters. Led by Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton, the company's 18 dancers, including Alejandro Cerrudo who pulls double duty as a dancer and the choreographer-in-residence, have traveled the globe to bring the work of new dance experts to the stage, both masters and up-and-coming talents alike.
"A lot of companies are run by an individual choreographer, like the Paul Taylor Dance Company or the Martha Graham Dance Company. Those companies were formed by choreographers, and they were vehicles to express their work, their choreography," explains Edgerton. "I, as a dancer, always appreciated trying new things and being challenged and going in different directions, and the variety of that lends to a more well-rounded dancer. And then I think a company like Hubbard Street provides that. You try everything."
And to create diverse dancers, Edgerton doesn't want to work with only established and well-known choreographers. "By bringing in new choreographers to make new work, it melds them [the dancers] in a way, it develops them in a way, that is unparalleled," he explains.
In this year alone, Hubbard will perform pieces from Ohad Naharin, Jirí Kylián, Nacho Durato, Mats Ek, and William Forsythe. "All of those five major choreographers are important to contemporary dance, and they think Hubbard Street Dance is a catalyst for being able to show those works in the United States," says Edgerton. "And this year, we particularly chose Kylián because we've been building on that repertoire for many years, since 1997, and we did a full evening encompassing a range from his movement, a range of his works over many years."
Kylian is known for exploring the limitations and transversely the capabilities of space and the body. He examines entrances and exits — both literally and figuratively through staging and the ideas of birth and death, as well as introductions and falling outs. He's always looking for contrasts.
And at Spoleto, audiences can see some of Kylián's work when the company performs his Falling Angels. The all-female ensemble piece features the eight women from the company, telling the story of women who fall prey to the trials and tribulations of being female, such as ambition and seduction, pregnancy and motherhood, and self-awareness. "It's fun, action-packed, really dynamic movement from beginning to end. And if you know the music of Steve Reich, it's repetitive, you know. The women are counting from beginning to end, and it's quite a feat to get through the piece and maintain with the music from start to finish," Edgerton explains.
Also part of the Spoleto lineup are another two master choreographers. Durato's Gnawa is all about the music and was performed at the company's first Spoleto showing in 2005. It's the least narrative of the dances, but finds its strength in the tribal, ritualistic aspect of the choreography.
Forsythe's Quintett takes a dark turn with a narrative of five friends coming together after the loss of a friend, who was the master choreographer's wife.
"It's just the connection of these five people, living and breathing and working together, and how they come together to form this bond. And this work is representative of that," says Edgerton.
But it wouldn't be a Hubbard Street production if they didn't highlight an up-and-coming choreographer — their own choreographer-in-residence, in fact. The fourth and final work is Cerrudo's PACOPEPEPLUTO. His piece is an all-male dance set to the music of Dean Martin. "There are three solos. The idea there is that each solo gets a name, Paco for the first solo, Pepe for the second, Pluto for the third," Edgerton adds. "It's kind of a fun distinguishing them as different characters and giving them a name and putting them all together."
In the end, Edgerton hopes that the performances spark a conversation. "I hope the audience walks away with feeling some emotion, some impact, some sense of humanity from the work that is being presented," he says. "Dance for me is another medium, another art form, another way of expressing yourself that you can really connect people in a wonderful and positive way."