Hubbard Street 2, the second company of one of the world’s top contemporary dance companies, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, performed March 23 at Bovard Auditorium. Hosted by Visions and Voices and the USC Kaufman School of Dance, the event had a large turnout from the public and vibrant dance community at USC.
Founded by Julie Nakagawa and Lou Conte in 1997, HS2 is now in its 19th season. Currently led by Director Terence Marling, HS2 “prepares early-career dancers in contemporary dance, and identifies next-generation choreographers,” according to the program. Aside from performing at renowned venues in the United States such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Joyce SoHo, HS2 has also appeared in Germany, Luxembourg, South Africa, Switzerland and other places around the world. After their time in the company, HS2’s talented dancers go on to join Hubbard Street’s main company, or other top dance companies worldwide.
The company performed four pieces, each of which were stunning and unique. The first piece, “Hello,” featured the ensemble, consisting of three female and three male dancers. A quiet dance track was accompanied by a male narrator, who first introduced each dancer individually and then narrated their movements. The simplicity of the piece, marked by a “this is … ” narration structure, the costumes consisting of nude underwear, and the fresh-faced women with slicked-back buns, accentuated the dancers’ pure beauty. The dancers’ simple and clean movement, though similar to one another, showcased their individual personalities through their artistic choices.
“Long Story Short,” choreographed by Ihsan Rustem, introduced the audience to the “liquid velvet” movement of HS2, as Jodie Gates, vice dean of the Kaufman School of Dance, puts it. The base track features a heavy beat and is repeatedly accompanied by a woman speaking work commands in German and by a man reciting “Howl” by Allen Ginsberg. This soundtrack, coupled with the ensemble’s seamless dancing takes the audience through their three stage journey of “insecurity and immense doubt, the urge to break free, then absolute calm,” as Rustem explained.
“Changed In Its Affection,” choreographed by Bryan Arias, is a lighthearted piece that serves to end the show on an uplifting note. Dressed in identical backwards suits, the dancers question their uniform identity through their witty movement. In a striking moment of the piece, all six of the dancers stand in a line and make ridiculous faces and movement — outstretching their faces and flailing their arms — as if mocking themselves. Then a featured dancer, Adrienne Lipson, hurled herself across the line of dancers in a rambunctious fashion. The manifestation of the business suit, made a remark on the gender hierarchy, which the dancers were viciously trying to oppose by proving that they’re identical, yet they still fought against their identities.
After the showing, Terence Marling and the company dancers participated in a Q&A session with Gates. The personable dancers shared their advice for aspiring dancers, particularly the BFA dance majors at USC.
“Stay curious,” said Elliot Hammans, HS2 dancer advised. “I like to think of my job as an adance scientist or researcher. Every story has an idea or some presence to it. Make yourself a thinking dancer.”
One audience member asked what socks they wore, which was a very important question to ask, since it’s difficult to dance on marley with slippery socks. Their secret to not slipping — wearing Dockers, 100 percent cotton socks (the higher the cotton the better).
Later in the evening, Adrienne Lipson, who is in her second year with HS2, spoke about what inspires her to continue perfecting her craft.
“Most often [what inspires me] is those that I’m dancing with. In performance, I love exploring different relationships on stage with my fellow dancers, sometimes connecting them to real life and other times inventing situations or a history with someone that fits the specific world and context of each piece.”
Lipson’s message aligns with the unity created between the dancers throughout each piece. Dance, although marked by the ability to be an individual artist, also relies heavily on the connection between dancers, which serves as a vital source for growth.