Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Decadance/Chicago is an exhilarating evening of invigorating motion and sound, energetically performed by the talented Illinois troupe, returning to the Joyce for the first time in four years. The piece consists of excerpts from nine works by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin and Batsheva Dance Company, a kind of evolving greatest-hits package. The evening opens with a tall young man in somewhat Hasidic garb, instructing us to turn off our cellphones in a very serious tone of voice. When the second act begins, he asks the audience a series of questions that get rather personal. Both introductions immediately work to create an intimate, quirky, magical space for the performers and audience to inhabit. The sixteen-person company, each one worthy of singling out — Craig D. Black Jr., Jacqueline Burnett, Rena Butler, Alicia Delgadillo, Kellie Epperheimer, Michael Gross, Elliot Hammans, Alysia Johnson, Myles Lavallee, Adrienne Lipson, Florian Lochner, Ana Lopez, Andrew Murdock, David Schultz, Kevin J. Shannon, and Connie Shiau — exhibits Naharin’s Gaga movement language, “which emphasizes the exploration of sensation and availability for movement,” resulting in a unique and identifiable vocabulary that offers dancers chances to improvise amid the complex structures.
Staged by Ian Robinson and Rachael Osborne so that several of the excerpts flow smoothly into the next, Decadance/Chicago highlights the upper body at the start, particularly the arms and hands, as dancers come together and break off into solos. They rarely slow down as they move to Dick Dale’s “Hava Nagila,” Goldfrapp’s “Train,” Arvo Pärt’s “Fur Alina,” Marusha’s “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” Ali Hassan Kuban’s “Mabrouk Wo Arisna,” Dean Martin’s “Sway,” the Beach Boys’ “You’re Welcome,” and a woman reciting Charles Bukowski’s 1972 poem “making it,” the last with poetic cumulative choreography for five women. The company lines up at the front of the stage as the dancers suddenly burst into brief solos; they break into three groups and play a game of horse as each dancer either copies the previous one or dares the proceeding one to match them; the cast ventures into the audience and grabs partners to dance with onstage; and then they bring out the showstopping Anaphase, in which fifteen performers are arranged in a semicircle of chairs and remove their Hasidic garb (black pants, white shirt, black jacket, and black hat) to Naharin and Tractor’s Revenge’s adaptation of the traditional Passover song “Ehad Mi Yodea,” a dazzling display that leaves the audience breathless.
The excerpts range from 1993’s Anaphase — which I have now seen three times, the first by Batsheva, then by Alvin Ailey, in which I was one of the audience members brought onstage, and now by Hubbard Street, with my wife getting chosen to dance, and it has been a joy on each occasion — to 2011’s Sadeh21 and also include Zachacha, Naharin’s Virus, Three, Telophaza, George & Zalman, Max, and Seder. Experiencing Naharin’s choreography performed by this young, high-energy, spectacularly gifted company makes for an electrifying evening that’s not to be missed. Decadance/Chicago continues through March 10, to be followed March 12-17 by HSDC’s versions of a trio of works by Canadian choreographer and Kidd Pivot founder Crystal Pite, A Picture of You Falling, The Other You, and Grace Engine, all with music by Owen Belton. Batsheva fans can catch Naharin’s Venezuela March 27-30 at BAM.