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Hits and Misses From Hubbard

February 12, 1996|JENNIFER FISHER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

IRVINE — Two works by Kevin O'Day were featured on the second program of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's weekend engagement at the Irvine Barclay Theatre. The more recent, "Hellblondegroove," announced as a "preview" because the choreographer is still making adjustments, did not seem to have found its . . . well, groove, yet.

But the protean, technically adept ensemble of dancers was looking very smart in O'Day's "Quartet for IV (and sometimes, one, two or three. . .)." Following the (perhaps too cute . . .) title, the work's four dancers linked up and drifted around one another in springy and lyrical ways, occasionally edging almost imperceptibly into conflict.

O'Day is particularly good at continuous intertwining of couples, using pretty ballet arms and jazzy weight shifts with some Gene Kelly, happy-go-lucky swagger thrown in. In this piece, movements always seemed to emanate from the music (by Kevin Volans), as if dancers were momentarily inspired at each rhythmic turn.

"Hellblondegroove" is a jazzier, tougher piece, which didn't seem as slick or powerful as it wanted to be. To a taped score by John King, which sometimes sounded like a fuzzy montage of garage band sessions, eight dancers whipped in and out of various configurations. The edges of movement phrases seemed ragged at times, although some strong themes started to peek through--notably, the affirmation of self-confidence through physical display.

The program concluded with an unfortunately choppy rendition of Twyla Tharp's "Nine Sinatra Songs." And choppy is surely not what anyone has in mind for mirror-ball-drenched duets done to expertly romantic crooning. Glitches in partnering maneuvers were so consistent, it seemed the company was uncomfortable with Tharp's quirkily nuanced version of ballroom dancing. The one exception was the seriously snappy duet by Shan Bai and Ron De Jesus to "That's Life," in which Tharp's popular take on eccentricity finally had a chance to fire.

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