Musical Scores Illuminated on Stage | WBEZ
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Eight Forty-Eight

Musical Scores Illuminated on Stage

You can't have dancing without music – right? So it's no surprise that many choreographers find their inspiration in musical scores. Two upcoming concerts feature dance works that are intimately connected to music from strikingly different eras. For WBEZ, dance critic Lucia Mauro tells us more.

Every spring, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has a date with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. This collaboration between the dancers and musicians on stage together at Symphony Center visibly merges movement and music. This year, Hubbard Street's resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo interprets tunes by acclaimed classical and electronica composer Mason Bates. Here's a sample of Bates' music. As you can tell, his music is atmospheric. And the score for Hubbard Street's performance entitled Music from Underground Spaces, evokes sensations of lyrical grace and heavy industrialism. Bates incorporates the sounds of subway trains and earthquakes into his surprisingly melodic music…the way another composer might weave in a piano or string section.

But Cerrudo does not have his ensemble simply mimic these evocative sounds in this two-part dance titled Deep Down Dos. Instead he translates feelings of whimsy, shakiness and something vaguely ominous through arm and torso movements that form soft curves and sharp angles. At times the dancers bob their heads as if they're doing a dainty minuet. Then they abruptly extend their fingers in disturbing claw shapes and soon resemble an assembly line of rivets. Their shoulder blades undulate while their bodies seem to come unhinged at the hip. The work culminates in a languid duet in which the woman folds into the arms of her male partner, then wraps her body around his rib cage. Cerrudo does not offer a specific meaning to the piece. But it soon becomes clear these dancers are dodging and yielding to the earth moving under their feet.

For its mixed-rep spring program at the Auditorium Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet carries music to a rich visual and emotional level. New York choreographer Jessica Lang premieres Crossed, a large ensemble meditation set to the ecclesiastical music of Mozart, Handel and des Prez. Though not overtly religious, the work embodies profound spiritual overtones. The title, Crossed, also has a layered meaning. It can refer to the dance's complex diagonal formations or a crucifix. In one of the more solemn duets, the man lifts his partner in a way that her bent knees and bowed head suggest Christ on the cross. A chorus of dancers shadows them…linking arms, cupping their hands, forming serpentine patterns and raising their eyes to the heavens. A serene beauty envelops the dancers as they suggest figures in Renaissance holy paintings.

The entire picture toggles between reverent and joyous, with intensely moving images of supplication and surrender.

Both Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and the Joffrey Ballet carve powerful movement compositions out of compelling musical scores.

CSO and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
Tonight at 8; April 16, 17 and 20

Wed. April 28 at 7:30 p.m. and selected dates through May 9

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