Outside Looking In: Anne Grove on Hubbard Street Dance
By Kayla SilversteinTweet
Editor’s note: Hubbard Street Dance Chicago return to Ann Arbor on October 27, 2015.
This UMS 13-14 Season, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will be bringing their first, evening-length piece to Ann Arbor’s Power Center September 27-28. To learn more about Hubbard Street behind the scenes, their new work, and Hubbard Street’s first resident choreographer, Alejandro Cerrudo, I sat down with UMS Artist Services Manager, Anne Grove, to talk about her experiences working as the company manager of Hubbard Street prior to coming to UMS.
This is the first time Hubbard Street has performed with UMS while you are working at UMS. What does it feel like to have Hubbard Street perform as part of the UMS season?
I’m really proud to see the company coming here, bringing Alejandro’s work, and I’m excited to see them! I don’t get to Chicago very often, so I’m really looking forward to having them here and to fulfill my old role a bit, working with them backstage.
What was your favorite or most memorable experience while working with Hubbard Street?
There were so many it’s hard to land on one! For one thing, it was amazing to see what ambassadors the Hubbard Street dancers are for the city of Chicago and for dance. I’ve had so many people come up to me and say after seeing a performance, “Oh I’ve never really liked dance” or “never been interested in it,” but because Hubbard offered such a variety within a single performance, it was a really great entry point into dance for a lot of people.
Personally, I really enjoyed the places I was able to travel to during my time as Company Manager. The events and receptions I attended, the people I was able to meet because I was a part of Hubbard Street that I never would have had any chance to otherwise. In Paris, a woman who happened to really like dance hosted a reception for us in her apartment where there were original Picasso sketches just lying on the floor…it was like being in a movie. Getting to travel with these talented artists and taking care of them; it was an incredible experience.
Did you always know you wanted to work with Hubbard Street?
No. I first saw Hubbard Street many years ago when I was still in Minneapolis and working with a couple different theater companies when Hubbard Street came through on a tour. I met Gail Kalver several years later, executive director of Hubbard at the time, at a booking conference. I had been with the company for several years at that point and had always wanted to travel overseas. My position at that time with the theater didn’t allow for much travel. I was always the point person who stayed home. When the company manager position became available at Hubbard, I pursued that.
How prepared were you for your new position with Hubbard Street Dance, coming from theater?
I really didn’t know much about dance at all. For the first couple of years with Hubbard, I made lots of mistakes. Things that are very important to theater artists are not necessarily important to dancers. Something so easy as, when you’re traveling overseas, ensuring the hotels have bathtubs because all the dancers like to soak after performing. For the first European tour, I had no idea that was a priority. There was a big learning curve, but the dancers really helped me along.
Hubbard Street is performing a piece created by choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, entitled One Thousand Pieces, inspired by Marc Chagall’s America Windows. This work is the first evening-length piece they’ve ever performed. How do you see performing an evening-length piece as different from the vignettes they usually perform?
Well, as I alluded to before, the company is very much known for their repertory performances, so this is a really big step. With a repertory performance, you’re seeing work by lots of different choreographers, the pieces will be different, although you still try to program with something that brings the evening together or gives an arc to the performance as a whole. When you have a full-evening work, you’re still going to get some variety, but the performance will usually have just one central theme or look to it.
Has this been several years in the making?
Yes, they’ve been working towards this for a long time. I was with the company for 15 years and I think from my second or third year, they started talking about at some point doing a full evening work. There were many different choreographers discussed for doing a full evening work, and I’m so proud of the company for taking the big leap with Alejandro.
Not only is it the first evening-length work for Hubbard, but this was Alejandro’s first full evening work as well. Selecting such a young, up and coming choreographer really speaks to the core of what Hubbard Street is about: nurturing talented, young artists and helping them explore their talents.
Mr. Cerrudo was a dancer with the company before he became Hubbard’s first Resident Choreographer, yes?
Correct – he joined the company as a dancer in 2005 from NDT2 in Holland, although he is originally from Spain. NDT2 is legendary in its ability to identify and support the work of emerging professional choreographers. Alejandro participated in the choreographic workshops there and then at Hubbard, once he started dancing with us.
The first year Alejandro participated in the choreographic workshop, he did this amazing, beautiful duet, and Jim Vincent, artistic director at the time, asked him to create a full piece that grew out of that duet, which was later to become Lickity Split. And then, every year, Alejandro created a piece in that choreographic workshop which usually in one form or another became part of the Hubbard Street rep. In 2008, he became a choreographic fellow at Hubbard, and the following year, became Hubbard’s first resident choreographer. He’s done many works now for Hubbard as well as being hired by other companies to create for them.
Because he was a dancer with the company, he has gotten to know the Hubbard Street dancers in a way he does not know dancers from the other companies. The intimacy he was able to create in One Thousand Pieces because of that really comes across.
How do you think Chagall’s widely-known America Windows will function within the choreography of One Thousand Pieces?
Well, I’ve talked to Alejandro about it, and I was actually able to see the piece last fall when it was performed in Chicago, and I think it’s really important for people to know that the Windows were a point of inspiration.
He’s not recreating the windows or trying to tell a story. What influenced him was the idea of windows, and how windows and reflections off of glass distort, enhance, frame.
Also too he’s added some technical aspects that work with his voice and vision, embracing the technological age he grew up in. At one point in the piece, the dancers dance in water on stage in front of a mist curtain. You get the visual power of that, the smoothness of movement through the water, the sounds of that…it’s really quite unique and special.
Anything else audiences should look out for when seeing One Thousand Pieces?
I would encourage audience members to look for the duets, trios, and other small groupings of the company. I still harken back to the talent Alejandro displayed in choreographing the duet in his first workshop at Hubbard Street. He creates stunning duets, especially using his knowledge of the dancers on a personal level, having performed with them before, to his advantage. The group stuff is also very beautiful, but there’s something extraordinary about his small groupings.
I hope too that audiences will remain open-minded to a full evening, single-choreographer work from Hubbard Street. There’s music they’ll recognize, Philip Glass, and it’s a moment to enjoy the beauty of bodies, lighting, and music. Take away from it your own experience. Alejandro would say himself the piece doesn’t have to mean the same thing to him that it means to you. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about sharing that moment of beauty and letting it be whatever it is to you.
For more information on Hubbard Street performing at UMS this fall, see their artist page [here].