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A CurtainUp Berkshire Review
The Hubbard Street Dancers Break the Fourth Wall In a treatise "On Dramatic Poetry" the French playwright and critic Denis Diderot (1713-84) advised actors in the interest of greater realism to "Imagine a wall across the front of the stage dividing them from the audience, and then act as if the curtain had not risen." The convention of crumbling this imaginary barrier for a more natural interaction between actors and audiences has been gaining momentum in the theater. Now the fourth wall has tumbled in the dance world.
The popular Chicago Hubbard Street company (the troupe takes its name from its original address just north of the Loop in downtown Chicago) has crumbled that imaginary wall by having the company walk off stage, down the aisles of the Jacob's Pillow Ted Shawn Theatre, and double its stage presence by enticing twenty adventurous audience members to become part of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin's marvelously manic, musically varied (cha-cha, mambo, techno and traditional Israeli) "Minus 16. ". Fat, thin and in between, young and young in heart, they catch the spirit of Naharin's and the company's joyous spirit. These wall crumbling devices can be risky but the Hubbard dancers' exuberance caught fire at Jacob's Pillow and brought a well-earned standing ovation for the amateurs as well as the pros.
Savvy Jacob's Pillow audiences recognized the talent of the Hubbard Street group before they became a "hot ticket." They are sure to want to see more of Mr. Naharin's work, which marks his debut at the Pillow. In addition to the rousing audience participation climax, "Minus 16" also adopted a touch from the visual art scene -- beginning the piece during the intermission with Joseph Pantaleon doing an animated version of those robot-like inanimate live "installations" that began in SoHo and have since been borrowed as attention-getting boutique window display events). Clad in a tuxedo and hat (a trademark Hubbard Street costume) Pantaleon seems to hypnotize intermission chatters back to their seats with his jerkily mesmerizing movements.
In another highly theatrical Naharin piece, "Passomezzo", earlier in the program, Kendra Moore and Mario Alberto Zambrano (alternating with Cheryl Mann and James Meek -- Robyn Mineko Williams and Gregory Sample) interpret the variety of relationships at their rawest and most tender to "Greensleeves" and other ballads.
Under the company's new artistic director, Jim Vincent, the evening's relationship theme is explored with all the pace and theatrical panache that has contributed to their success: In choreographer Jiri Kylián's "Petite Mort", six couples dance an ode to love and the many ways it can die, the theme given visual emphasis with the clever use of cleverly use of fencing foils and bouffant black ball gowns which are actually cage-like constructions. The piece most strongly infused with the tradition of musical theater (also seen earlier in the season in Seven Deadly Sins), is "Group Therapy" choreographed by Harrison McEldowney in which four duets and a solo are sandwiched between a prologue and an epilogue for eight dancers who explore different aspects of trying to make a relationship work.
When the Pillow's artistic director, Gail Calver, ends her usual curtain talk for this final presentation of the season with "Let's Dance" it proves to be more than just a perky phrase -- at least for the twenty viewers given an opportunity to toss their inhibitions to the wind and take her literally.
6,500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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