Tag Archives: Robyn Mineko Williams

Hubbard Street Masterful in National Dance Day Performance at ADF in CLE


 

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “The 40s” by Lou Conte. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s hotly anticipated performance at the second annual ADF in CLE summer dance festival in Cleveland was a family affair of sorts. All five of the works on the program, Saturday, July 28, at Playhouse Square’s Connor Palace Theatre, were by choreographers from within the Hubbard Street family including three by former company dancer and current resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo.

The program, presented by DANCECleveland in collaboration with the American Dance Festival, led off with Cerrudo’s latest work and perhaps his best to date, “Out of Your Mind” (2018). Created for the company’s 40th anniversary season, the “sock” work was inspired by and titled after, a lecture by 20th century British philosopher Alan Watts. A recording of Watts reading excerpts from his thought-provoking lecture about the nature of the self, was incorporated into the work’s soundtrack that also included music by Canadian DJ duo Blond:ish, American composer Keith Kenniff (a.k.a Goldmund), and English composer Greg Haines. It is the first time Cerrudo has used text in one of his creations.

While the work’s title can imply a loss of one’s sanity, Cerrudo says he sees the title as meaning “thinking outside of your mind.” It was apparent from watching it that his thought process was without restraint and truly inspired.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dancers Michael Gross and Connie Shiau in “Out of Your Mind” by Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Out of Your Mind” by Alejandro Cerrudo. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Abstract and darkly atmospheric, the contemporary dance work for fifteen dancers began with group unison dancing in a series of ever-changing body positions with shifting hand and arm movements; some having the dancers’ arms swarm about their heads. Watching the precision dancing was spellbinding and Hubbard Street’s adroit dancers were exquisite in it.

As the piece progressed, group dancing gave way to various smaller dancer configurations. A duet between dancers Rena Butler and David Schultz fascinated as did a male trio in which two dancers held up and rotated in place a third in a headstand; the upside down dancer frozen in a pose looking as if he were trying to flee. The work’s many dazzling movement phrases came at you as if looking into a kaleidoscope.

The work’s final section then returned the full cast onstage, this time with the dancers entwined arm-in-arm in a line executing cascading and wave-like movements along that line that sometimes resembled a centipede in motion.

Sure to take its place as a signature work of Cerrudo’s, “Out of Your Mind” was far and away the best piece on a program filled with worthy runners-up.

Next, the curtain opened on a brief but visually startling ballooning of a large piece of parachute-like fabric that was quickly yanked into a stage wing revealing a dancer pair with a female dancer lifted over her male partner’s head and positioned in front of another large swath of similar fabric hung as a backdrop. The opening theatrics were part of former Hubbard Street dancer Robyn Mineko Williams’ 2017 dance work for the company, “Cloudline”.

Cloudline Run

(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “Cloudline” by Robyn Mineko Williams. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Cloudline Run

(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dancers Jessica Tong and Jason Hortin in “Cloudline” by Robyn Mineko Williams. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Set to a varied soundscape by Sufjan Stevens, Olafur Arnalds and others, the work, after its dramatic opening, slipped into a dreamlike haze conjuring up the hypnotic and surreal mood of the David Lynch TV series Twin Peaks.

Delivered in a series of delicious moving tableaux that drifted across the stage like a line of clouds, each tableau hinted at the joys and heartache associated with being in a romantic relationship or at the longing felt by one who is not. In one such tableau, a male dancer stood still staring into the wings at a back corner of the stage while dancers Alice Klock and Schultz engaged in sweeping and enveloping movement at its center, and a male/female couple sat pressed together at the front left of the stage watching them.

Over the course of “Cloudline” the fabric backdrop slowly sank to the floor like a setting sun and the dancers then used it to make it appear as if a few of them were dancing among the clouds. The piece then ended as dramatically as it began with a male/female couple in an embrace and tented by the billowing fabric, this time magically disappearing in the whoosh of fabric bring yanked off stage and replaced by a forlorn Jacqueline Burnett standing staring after them.

After a brief intermission, the other two Cerrudo’s works were shown beginning with his often performed, “Lickety-Split” (2006).  Danced to the folksy music of Venezuelan American singer-songwriter Devendra Banhart, “Lickety-Split” had a small town, back roads breeziness to it.  In it, you could see the early craft of a choreographic mind that would twelve years later be ready to birth a gem like “Out of Your Mind”.

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(Archive Photo) Hubbard Street Dancers Alicia Delgadillo and Elliot Hammans in Alejandro Cerrudo’s Lickety-Split. Photo by Cheryl Mann.

Sprinkled with carefree play and a touch of humor, the work’s bendy, elongated contemporary dance movement proved as delightfully quirky as the music it was danced to. In one section to Banhart’s tune “This Beard is for Siobhan” a dancer is seen banging their nose on another’s butt cheek while we hear Banhart sing “Because my teeth don’t bite I can take them out dancing and show them a real good time.”

A last minute replacement for choreographer Crystal Pite’s “Grace Engine” due to lighting requirements that couldn’t be met, Cerrudo’s “PACOPEPEPLUTO” (2011) was another piece of choreographic kitsch wrapped in some serious solo male dancing by Schultz and dancers Kevin J. Shannon and Michael Gross. Set to classic songs by Dean Martin including “Memories Are Made of This” and “That’s Amore,” the work, usually performed wearing nothing but a “dance belt” (jockstrap), had the performers here opting for a more full coverage bottoms. In those, keisters wiggled, hips gyrated and the men leaped and bounded about the stage to the approving shouts of audience members.

The 40's

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in “The 40s” by Lou Conte. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

The 40's

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (Florian Lochner, above) in “The 40s” by Lou Conte. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Hubbard’s program concluded with a signature work from its repertory Stone Age prior to the company becoming the global contemporary dance juggernaut audiences have come to know and love. Choreographed by company founder Lou Conte in 1978, “The 40s” was nonetheless a beauty of a jazz dance piece performed to big band music by Sy Oliver. Fast, light-footed and full of Broadway  “cool cat” spunk, the work unfolded like a grand Gene Kelly movie production number. It was a joyous end to a monster evening of dance capped by a rousing standing ovation from the audience.

Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

The ADF in CLE summer dance festival concludes with Caleb Teicher & Company (Tap), 8 p.m., Saturday, August 4 at Cain Park’s Evans Amphitheater. For information and tickets visit ADFinCLE.org

 

 

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Robyn Mineko Williams’ ‘Undercover Episodes’ returns to Chicago, June 15-18


Robin Mineko Williams Rehearsal

Robin Mineko Williams Rehearsal. © Todd Rosenberg Photography

By Robyn Mineko Williams

Choreographer Robyn Mineko Williams and her creative team, composer/musicians Robert F. Haynes and Tony Lazzara of Chicago band Verger and art director/designer JT Williams, are excited to announce the return of Undercover Episodes to Chicago this summer, June 15-18th, 2018.

Undercover Episodes, the innovative dance-based performance series spearheaded by in demand, award-winning choreographer, Robyn Mineko Williams, is back this summer with a four show Chicago run, including a family friendly matinee*.

Presented by Apologue Liqueurs and danced by Jacqueline Burnett, Elliot Hammans and Michael Gross, all current members of internationally renowned Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the chameleon-like series offers the chance to see extraordinary dance set in a curated melange of distinctly Chicago locations.

Repeat attendance is encouraged – each show will meld to its surroundings and have a signature of its own.

*Undercover Episode 008: The Charleston marks the series’ first family friendly performance.

Williams, choreographer of two critically acclaimed, full length children’s dance works originally presented by the Kennedy Center, Harold and the Purple Crayon in 2010 and Mariko’s Magical Mix in 2015, is thrilled to adapt Episode 008: The Charleston to appeal not only to adults but children, as well. The 50-minute performance is interactive, colorful, fun and engaging for audiences of all ages.

“Rare is the opportunity to see these dancers and this choreographer’s work from an arm’s length away, and her ability to work in intimate spaces might be Robyn Mineko Williams’ best kept secret.” – Lauren Warneke, Art Intercepts

“unforgettable… intimate and irreplicable” — Elena Zinchenko, Host Of Undercover Episode 005: Hyde Park

Undercover Episodes

The performance schedule is as follows:

Undercover Episode 007: Storefront on Damen/Firecat Projects
Friday, June 15th, 2018, 7:30pm
@ Firecat Projects, 2124 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, IL 60647

Undercover Episode 008: The Charleston
Saturday, June 16th, 2018, 1:00pm
@ Charleston Bar, 2076 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago, IL 60647
*** FAMILY FRIENDLY MATINEE – Kids under 10 are free with guardian admission

Undercover Episode 009: Danny’s Tavern
Sunday, June 17th, 2018, 7:30pm
@ Danny’s Tavern, 1951 W Dickens Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

Undercover Episode 010: Mott Street Chicago
Monday, June 18th, 2018, 7:30pm
@ Mott Street, 1401 N. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60622

Tickets are available online at <A HREF=’http://www.eventbrite.com/e/undercover-episodessummer-2018-tickets-46029259755&#8242; TARGET=_blank>www.eventbrite.com/e/undercover-episodessummer-2018-tickets-46029259755</A>
All performances are limited capacity.

Pricing is as follows:
• ONE SHOW Ticket – $35/one performance
• TWO SHOW Ticket – $60/two performances of your choice ($10 discount)
• THREE SHOW Ticket – $85/three performances of your choice ($15 discount)
• ALL IN Ticket – $110/four performances + Cocktail class with Robby Haynes ($20 discount + lesson)</b>

Undercover Episodes was developed in part during a residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY and awarded through the Princess Grace Foundation-USA Works In Progress program.

ABOUT ROBYN MINEKO WILLIAMS

Robyn Mineko Williams danced for River North Dance Chicago and was a member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago for twelve seasons, during which she performed choreography by numerous renowned artists including Ohad Naharin, Jiri Kylian, William Forsythe and Johan Inger, and originated roles in new works by Jorma Elo, Sharon Eyal, Twyla Tharp and Lar Lubovitch, among others. She began making her own work in 2001 through Hubbard Street’s Inside/Out Choreographic Workshop and, in 2010, co-choreographed with Terence Marling Hubbard Street 2’s Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure, designed for young audiences. She has since created multiple premieres for Hubbard Street’s main company including the Art of Falling, a full evening production by the artists of The Second City and Hubbard Street and has made work for Charlotte Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Grand Rapids Ballet, Visceral Dance Chicago and The Nexus Project, presented at the Kennedy Center, the American Dance Festival, the Joyce Theater and other venues. Named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” for 2014, Williams was one of Northwest Dance Project’s 2012 International Choreography Competition winners, received a 2013 Princess Grace Choreographic Fellowship and was selected as an E-choreographer for Springboard Danse Montreal the same year. In 2015 she completed a Princess Grace Foundation–USA Works In Progress Residency at the Baryshnikov Arts Center and received a Choreography Mentorship Co-Commission Award from the Princess Grace Foundation–USA in support of Mariko’s Magical Mix: A Dance Adventure, her second full-length children’s program in collaboration with shadow puppetry performance collective, Manual Cinema. In 2016, Williams was selected as one of NewCIty’s Players: 50 People Who Really Perform for Chicago and Best Choreographer in Chicago Magazine’s Best Of Issue. robynminekowilliams.com

ABOUT VERGER – ROBERT F. HAYNES AND TONY LAZZARA

Drawn to its vibrant and eclectic music scene, North Carolina native Robert F. Haynes packed up his gear and moved to Chicago in the early 2000’s. Since then the multi-instrumentalist’s work has run the gamut from the blissed out guitar antics of The Record Low and primal basement fuzz of underground synth punks Treasurer to the fractured electro compositions of Verger. Through Verger, Haynes and collaborator Tony Lazzara (Bloodiest, Atombombpocketknife) create rich narrative landscapes for Robyn Mineko Williams’ choreography, melding seemingly disparate elements – haunting melodies, ambient drone, pulsing rhythms and wire-y guitars – into something otherworldly. Visit verger.bandcamp.com to learn more.

ABOUT JT WILLIAMS

Minneapolis based designer, Jt Williams, has spent his career connecting business and human centered design to guide innovation and nurture creativity. Currently working as a product designer for SportsEngine, Jt spends his most productive time sucking the creative energy from his two daughters to fulfill his endless need to make things. Jt has a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design with a minor in Psychology from Iowa State University. Recent projects include collaboration with Robyn Mineko Williams for Undercover, collaboration with photojournalist Reed Young for Finding Vietnam’s War Children—Chon Thanh Refugees Then and Now (on exhibit this fall at the National Veterans Art Museum), and regular contributor to TheBolg.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Innovative ‘MOVEMEDIA’ Series Delights Yet Again


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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Steven Houser and Yuka Oba in Penny Saunders’ “In Frame.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

Reviewed by Steve Sucato

Perhaps the best and most revealing showcase of Grand Rapids Ballet’s dancers’ talent and versatility, the company’s annual MOVEMEDIA contemporary dance series added yet another successful chapter March 10-12 at the company’s Peter Martin Wege Theatre in Grand Rapids.

In this latest iteration, MOVEMEDIA: World Premieres, artistic director Patricia Barker called on two of the series’ most celebrated choreographers, former Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancers Robyn Mineko Williams and Penny Saunders as well as MOVEMEDIA first-timers Robert Dekkers and Vanessa Thiessen to create new works.

Opening the performance on March 11 was Dekkers and Thiessen’s ballet “Dear Light Along the Way to Nothingness.” Titled after a line from James Merrill’s poem Log, the ballet for 21 dancers was set to Caroline Shaw’s unconventional 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning composition, “Partita for Eight Voices.” The 26-minute ballet had an intriguingly bizarre sci-fi feel to it driven home by costume designer Christian Squires’ scaly sea creature meets Medieval-period garb.  The dancers in the ballet vacillated from YouTube “mannequin challenge” stillness as a collective, to individual dancers or pairs of dancers, tossing off hyper-convulsive fits of movement.

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Grand Rapids Ballet in Robert Dekkers & Vanessa Thiessen “Dear Light Along the Way to Nothingness.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

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Grand Rapids Ballet in Robert Dekkers and Vanessa Thiessen “Dear Light Along the Way to Nothingness.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Grace Haskins in Robert Dekkers and Vanessa Thiessen “Dear Light Along the Way to Nothingness.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

A bit more show than go, Dekkers and Thiessen’s choreography for the ballet appeared to rely more on quirkiness over substantive dancing. That being said, the piece at times took over your interest like whatever force caused dancers to suddenly shake violently or twitch a leg uncontrollably and then dissipate. There was something to these characters/creatures and to this fantastical world, however intangible it was to discern. Standout performers included: Grace Haskins, Cassidy Isaacson, Nicholas Schultz, Matthew Wenckowski and Caroline Wiley who each danced with a level of energy, commitment and fervor that accounted for much of the ballet’s appeal.

Next, Williams’ “Gleam,” set to music by Chopin and others recalled the dreamlike atmosphere of her 2013 work for the company “One Take.”  A contemporary ballet for three male/female couples seemingly at different stages of the same romantic relationship, “Gleam” showcased Williams’ preferred choreographic movement style in which the dancers moved as if poured onto the stage; merging together, then apart, like flowing streams of liquid.

On a dimly lit stage to the sounds of rain, company trainee Adriana Wagenveld and partner Nicholas Schultz began a push-pull pas de deux along a band of white light. One dancer’s touch of a limb the other into motion as they gazed intently at one another conjuring up a sense of the beginning, “feeling out” stage of a romantic relationship. Soon Wagenveld and Schultz were replaced by dancers Cassidy Isaacson and company rising star Matthew Wenckowski in a more aggressive take on Williams’ sophisticated choreography perhaps suggesting the occasional turmoil that often comes in a relationship. The dramatic work concluded with a longer transition to a third couple as dancer Isaac Aoki’s entrance onstage overlapped Wenckowski’s exit. The two men danced to a scratchy recording of late 19th century Italian superstar tenor Enrico Caruso singing “Mi Par D’udir Ancora” from Georges Bizet’s opera I Pescatori Di Perle. Then veteran company star Yuka Oba joined Aoki onstage as composer Michael Galasso’s haunting “Angkor Wat Theme Finale” from the 2001 film In the Mood for Love began.  The pair was perhaps representative of a mature relationship, one that has lasted a lifetime. The dancers gave in fully to Williams’ heartfelt choreography that at work’s end left Oba standing alone struck by the apparent loss of Aoki.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Cassidy Isaacson and Matthew Wenckowski in Robyn Mineko Williams’ “Glean.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Yuka Oba and Isaac Aoki in Robyn Mineko Williams’ “Glean.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

With “Gleam,” Williams created a surreal, dreamlike world of memory where characters appeared only in close-up and around them, like our own distant recollections, lay darkness and the fuzzy edges of details all but forgotten.

Having seen Williams’ works on other dance companies, it is clear she gets the best out of GRB’s dancers and vice versa. The same holds true for Saunders who produced another gem in “In Frame” to close the program.

Set to Max Richter’s reworked version of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” and using projected images of ink and watercolor paintings by artist (and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancer) Alice Klock, Saunders, along with lighting designer Matthew Taylor and digital designers Sam Begich and Michael Auer, created a the look and feel to the work of an interactive art gallery where the artwork, as well as those viewing it, were alive with motion.

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Grand Rapids Ballet dancers in Penny Saunders’ “In Frame.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Caroline Wiley in Penny Saunders’ “In Frame.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

Said by Saunders to be about “the universal realities of love, life and death, creation and destruction, to the beauty and vulnerability of the creative process,” the work blended contemplative moments of reflection with rapid-fire bursts of movement. Those coupled with the aforementioned atmospheric lighting and projections, cultivated a look and mood to the work that proved mesmerizing. Nowhere was this more pronounced than in a quiet solo by Wiley in the work’s “Autumn” section. Crouched in a deep knee bend over a floor projection of one of Klock’s paintings, Wiley appeared to gather to her unseen elements from her surroundings and ball them up with her hands. A second year company member, Wiley, like Wenckowski, impressed throughout the program.

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Grand Rapids Ballet’s Caroline Wiley in Penny Saunders’ “In Frame.” Photo by Eric Bouwens.

Grand Rapids Ballet will next present the world-premiere of Brian Enos’ Alice in Wonderland with designs world-renowned visual artist Luis Grané. April 28-30 & May 5-7, 2017 at GRB’s Peter Martin Wege Theatre, 341 Ellsworth SW, downtown Grand Rapids, MI. Tickets are $44 and can be purchased by calling (616) 454–4771 ext. 10 or at grballet.com.

Copyright Steve Sucato – 2017. Steve Sucato is a former dancer turned arts writer/critic. He is Chairman Emeritus of the Dance Critics Association and Associate Editor of ExploreDance.com.

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