Normally, a nosebleed seat is not the pick of the prince, but since tonight’s performance is an audio-visual one, it’s prime! I can see the tendons in each dancer’s calves; the sweat flying off their faces (visceral, if nothing else); but best of all, I can observe pre- and post-entrance dancer behavior in my sliver of a view into the wings. The verdict? Gasping for breath, these dancers still stand erect even after they’ve slid offstage.
One of Mozart’s last symphonies is Symphony No. 40 in G minor – and tonight, the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago company performs Marguerite Donlon’s Strokes Through the Tail to Symphony No. 40’s rippling anticipation.
There goes Robertson with his knees again. Bouncing with the beat, crouching low to pull the oboe in like a thick, heavy rope, his hair isn’t flouncing as much as usual. It’s been cut. In a brief pause, we see that the orchestra is as cool as a cat, though it’s sounding jittery with the suspense of unresolved harmony.
Suddenly, the lights dim, and you guessed it! Physicality as the instrument arrives with the second movement. In deference to Mozart’s wired lyricism, Principal Female plays a wind-up doll, fleety-flighting in unpredictable directions with each musical shove. Then, hooray! Guys without shirts on! These young ‘uns are wearing tailcoats, but their breasts are bright white in the stage light.
Synchronous scampering ensues. These could be members of a boy band. Individuals all – the super-young innocent, the mustachioed Borat character, and a slavic-looking baldy with a long scar next to his left eye – nevertheless chained in imitation, they showboat their long legs and make nearly identical half-turns, one after the other, like fancy dominoes.
Principal Female and her boy wonders prod each other with the crown of their heads or chest-bump like blind zygotes to transfer electricity. Tailcoats vibrate with each dancer’s buzzy shudder and periodically, a head-nudge causes one to crinkle her fingers as if she’s received a shock. No wonder David Robertson wasn’t wearing a tailcoat tonight. These Tailcoats conduct kinetic energy among themselves and direct each other’s movements like a bevy of conductors.
The leader-follower imitation mime-time carries over into garb. Briefly, Principal Female solos in white chiffon and tulle. Then the boys are back – but without their jackets! Donning delicate white skirts, they perform the lotus gait behind Principal Female in a long line like ducklings … until we notice that the (mustachioed) little swan hasn’t arrived yet. Swinging torsos – elephants turning their heads: where is mustache? Ah, here he is! Men’s legs in white light – I quite enjoy them in transparent chiffon!
Principal Female returns to the stage wearing blinding-bright pride, black boxer briefs and a tailcoat of her own. (The lacy chiffon top remains.) Tightly-bound, consequential, sequential movements conduct kinetic speed betwixt each person as they pass it on – pass it on – with a biological yearning to bond and release with and from one another.
Time and again, Innocent Boy falls behind, missing a wardrobe adjustment or curling into comfy nap time in the background as the show carries on without him. Then, to reward his audacity, Innocent Boy gets a mini solo as he runs after the others in slow motion or fancies himself autonomous. Mustachioed Joe is even gladder than Principal Gal to return to the stage himself – the first to be back this time, in black boxer briefs and his original tailcoat. No more downy feather-skirt for him.
The audience has been chuckling and giggling for some time now. We’ve bonded with the dancers. Maybe it was the yearning-bonding-slacking-off-then-falling-in-again that drew in our empathy; that and the shocking virtuosity of these athletes who skate across our vision as if on ice.