Collaboration in the arts often yields surprising results, in the best cases creating a whole greater than the sum of its parts. This season’s collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and San Francisco-based LINES Ballet offers a blend of the former’s earthy athleticism with the latter’s ethereal neo-classicism that well proves the thesis.
“Azimuth,” a new collaborative work by LINES choreographer Alonzo King, is the focal point of the performance, which opened to rave reviews in Berkeley, Calif., in February. The combined troupe performed the work again in Chicago and will bring its third performance to Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts on March 20.
“Azimuth” will share the stage with “Rasa,” a dance conceived by King, and “Little Mortal Jump,” created by Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. The performance, which will mark Hubbard Street’s 15th visit to Madison, is a true collaborative effort that stresses the similarities rather than the differences between companies, according to Glenn Edgerton, Hubbard Street’s artistic director.
“What has resulted from the collaboration is a juxtaposition of dancers,” says Edgerton, a former dancer with the Joffrey Ballet who joined Hubbard Street in 2008. “Hubbard Street has a more modern esthetic and LINES a linear, neo-classical esthetic. Some of the LINES dancers are elongated and look like Alberto Giacometti sculptures to me, but mostly you can’t tell the difference between the two troupes when they are together on stage.”
Azimuth is a word that describes an angle that exists within a sphere, something Edgerton says characterizes the nine-movement work. King capitalizes on the strengths of both companies to create what reviewers for Berkeleyside, an online news site, described as “a physical pilgrimage, anthropological in its suggestion of heavenly bodies and an evolutionary culture.”
“‘Azimuth’ has a real sense of spirituality, of dancers coming together and merging,” Edgerton says. “You can’t define that spirituality. It’s something you feel when you’re watching. It’s the unspoken energy in a live performance.”
Hubbard Street and LINES first got together three years ago, after Edgerton saw a rehearsal by the ballet troupe in San Francisco.
“I watched Alonzo challenge and push his dancers,” Edgerton says. “I wondered what he could do with Hubbard Street’s dancers.”
“Following the Subtle Current Upstream,” the first collaborative effort between the two troupes, enabled Edgerton to get to know King’s style and methodology. The two troupes met this past summer at the University of California-Irvine, where former Edgerton dance partner Jodie Gates runs the dance program, to begin the process that would result in “Azimuth.”
“There is a need for dance to be open and share work for collaborative impact,” Edgerton says. “It’s the wave of the future and, so far, audiences have loved it.”
Edgerton anticipates that the other two works on the program also will draw a strong reaction. While he admits to not knowing enough to comment on King’s “Rasa,” he feels strongly about the power and grace of Cerrudo’s “Little Mortal Jump.”
“‘Jump” takes you on a journey from the lighthearted and playful to a dance duet that’s more substantial and with greater depth of emotion,” Edgerton says.
The stage is set with four large boxes that become part of the dance, he explains. Through movement and creative lighting, the boxes evolve from opportunities to obstacles, alternately strengthening and depleting the dancers.
“The boxes and their lighting add a sense of drama even at the end of the work, which is quite powerful,” says Edgerton. “Audiences love it and it’s been a wonderful piece to showcase the company.”
Audiences in Madison have been especially responsive to Hubbard Street’s brand of dance, which has fueled a continuing number of engagements, first at the former Civic Center and now at the Overture Center. The university’s influence and its student body bring the necessary education and energy to dance appreciation, Edgerton says.
“People seem to have gained awareness in what to look for and how to approach dance,” he observes.
In fact, the proper approach to dance may be critical in developing the necessary appreciation for the esthetic, he explains. The worst way to approach modern dance is intellectually and in search of a story, because that’s not the art form’s purpose.
“Approach dance like you would the symphony, and allow your imagination to be swept away in the moment,” Edgerton says. “You have to embrace dance in an emotional state to appreciate the spirituality, the beauty and the drama. That is what you should take away from a performance."
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and LINES Ballet unite in a single performance March 20 at Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts. For more, visit www.overturecenter.com.