A dancer may be considered "old" at 35, but a venerable company can live on and on. That's the case with the Hubbard Street Dance Company, considered one of the top troupes in the country and known for the high technical caliber of its dancers, the talent of its choreographers and its extensive repertory. The Chicago-based group makes its Hopkins Center for the Arts debut at Dartmouth College next week.
"Hubbard Street is one of the strongest contemporary dance companies, and it's one of the most important," says Margaret Lawrence, programming director of the Hop. "It has not only a brilliant resident choreographer [Alejandro Cerrudo], but very significant prior works by some of the most important choreographers in modern dance."
Hubbard Street is an incubator, training Chicago-area dancers while working with some of the world's top talent. Cerrudo is just the latest resident choreographer in a line of powerhouses who have developed works for the company. Glenn Edgerton, Hubbard Street's artistic director since 2009, says he's always on the hunt for choreographers with a "unique voice." His aim is constantly to push the boundaries of how modern dance is executed by performers and experienced by audiences.
"I really feel I'm trying to make an identity for Hubbard Street that's not homogenizing dance — that Hubbard Street is looking to be unique, rather than copying another company," Edgerton says. "When you find interesting artists that have something of their own to represent, then it creates a variation, and a diverse repertory that is rich and that has substance to it.
"I get a little wary when I see a program where everything seems similar," he adds.
Upper Valley audiences are in no danger of experiencing tedium at the Hop's show. It will showcase four dances from different eras: "PACOPEPEPLUTO" and "The Impossible," choreographed by Cerrudo; the North African-inspired "Gnawa" by Nacho Duato; and "Falling Angels" by Jií Kylián.
It's a varied selection. "PACOPEPEPLUTO," from 2011, is a series of male solos (partial nudity alert!) set to Dean Martin music. "The Impossible" premiered just two weeks ago, and is reportedly more narrative and character driven than Cerrudo's previous, more abstract works. "Falling Angels," created in 1989, is a female-only piece set to percussion. And "Gnawa," from 2005, is a dramatic, high-energy dance with a Mediterranean soundtrack.
"We usually bring in a varied bill, so there's always one piece for certain individuals to gravitate to," explains dancer Jonathan Fredrickson, who will perform in three of the dances at the Hop.
Hubbard Street's repertory is notable not just for its diversity but for its breadth of international influences. The 18 dancers of the core company are contracted to work 52 weeks a year, and the technical and physical dexterity needed to perform such a range of styles is remarkable.
"It is very versatile," agrees Fredrickson. "I enjoy the challenge ... To be versatile as a dancer is intriguing and fun, and also hard, while at the same time remaining yourself."
Local dancers, take note: While at the Hop, Hubbard Street will offer two master classes at the intermediate level, in ballet and in repertoire.
Most of us, of course, just like to watch.
"There's a lot of dance lovers in the region," says Lawrence. "And when you have a world-class ensemble, people come to see them."
Courtesy of Todd Rosenberg