Two world-acclaimed dance companies will link Chicago to Israel to Seattle for one night this February. On Saturday, February 9 at the Paramount Theater, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, the American contemporary dance company celebrating its 35th year, will perform two works by the Israeli choreographers Ohad Naharin and Sharon Eyal, both of Batsheva Dance Company.
Easily considered a rock star in his native country and in the world of contemporary dance, Naharin has been a dancer, the creative director and the choreographer for the famed Tel Aviv-based dance company since 1974. Besides his commissions for Hubbard Street, Naharin’s work is in the repertoires of major European, Canadian and American contemporary dance companies, including Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Lyon Opera Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet, Nederlands Dans Theater, Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, and Le Ballet du Grand Theatre de Geneve.
Sharon Eyal has been the house choreographer for Batsheva Dance Company since 2005; the Jerusalem native danced with the company from 1990 to 2008. Eyal additionally collaborates with music producer Gai Behar. Together they created works for Company E, Tanzcompagnie Oldenburg, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago.
Each of the two dance pieces on the touring repertoire was created specifically for Hubbard Street’s repertory and touring company, which, like Batsheva, brings forth new works that typically stretch the audience — perhaps as much as the dancers themselves. Hubbard Street is known for an emphasis on Pilobolus-style movement, agile physicality, and for commissioning choreography from internationally recognized artists outside the company.
Though designed by two Israelis affiliated with the same contemporary dance company, “the two pieces [we are presenting in Seattle] are very different from one another,” said Hubbard Street dancer Penny Saunders via phone from Chicago. “They are enthralling…Batsheva Dance Company is known consistently for pushing the envelope.”
Saunders has been a member of Hubbard Street’s touring company since 2004.
“[This is] the first time we focused on this area of the world,” she said of Israel’s company. “We just recognized they were doing incredible work.”
The first piece, “THREE TO MAX,” is a collage of past works created by Naharin over the past decade. The Hubbard Street website cites Naharin’s “Gaga” method of movement. Part of the method involves covering studio mirrors to let dancers observe and analyze multiple moves at once.
“We are aware of the connection between effort and pleasure,” Naharin explained.
In conjunction with her co-creator Behar, Eyal developed “Too Beaucoup,” meaning “too, too much,” which aims to manipulate and replicate precise, robotic movement that offers a sense of watching a 3-D video.
Saunders said the dance company “has a lot of moving parts: The school side, intensive programs, the dance hub [which includes] the main touring company and the junior company Hubbard Street Dance 2, the education outreach, and the school shows.”
Some of the outreach includes being active in Chicago Public Schools and bringing in youth dancers.
“Younger dancers are a catalyst,” Saunders said.
The Seattle performance is supported in part by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest. The Jewish community in Chicago has already seen these works, Saunders said, including the city’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel, a former dance student who will be honored by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago this spring for his support of the arts.
Next on its West Coast tour the company performs at Portland’s Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall on February 13. The close-knit, 18-member dance company tours year-round; the West Coast tour started in Scottsdale and performed in Berkeley and Arcata, Calif. prior to Seattle.
“Art and dance are necessary for life and give richness,” Saunders said. “Come with an open mind. The specific performance will be eclectic, engaging and
forward thinking. Viewers are bound to be surprised.”