Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's fall program, an evening of three pieces by famed choreographer William Forsythe, opened last night at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, providing a fascinating sample of Forsythe's wide-ranging aesthetic.
Hubbard Street is the first American company to perform the opening quartet, N.N.N.N. (though it's been performed in the States by Forsythe's own Frankfurt-based company). The piece, which has a minimalist, nearly inaudible sound design by frequent Forsythe collaborator Thom Willems, comes across as soundtracked by the sharp, rhythmic breathing of the two men and two women who manipulate one another's bodies in precise, intimately connected movements that seem to emphasize the weight of limbs.
Quintett, a 1993 piece first performed by Hubbard Street in 2012, is much more fluid than the staccato N.N.N.N., with five dancers engaging one another in alternating duets, trios and solos that speak something closer to the language of classical ballet, but with a contemporary urgency and force in its fragments. The final piece of the evening, One Flat Thing, reproduced, is less about fragments than compartments: The stage is occupied by a grid of 20 tables, with a large group of dancers moving atop, underneath and in the gaps in between, sometimes seeming to become a single agitated body. Their slaps and bangs on the tables' surfaces add to the droning, staticky cacophony of the score, also by Willems.
There are three more performances of the fall program, tonight through Sunday. Hubbard Street's winter series, featuring work by dancemakers Crystal Pite, Robyn Mineko Williams, Penny Saunders and Yin Yue, comes to the Harris December 10–13.