Cutting-edge Chicago-based dancers will leap across the stage at Wichita State University on Saturday. The Hubbard Street 2 (HS2) contemporary dance troupe is showcasing its theme-based works.
“I like to think that we’re looking for the next boundary to press,” HS2 director Taryn Russell said. “We are trying to explore uncharted territory.”
Russell, who spent seven years with the Joffrey Ballet, understands both the excitement and the challenges associated with each performance. She describes the dancers in HS2 as fearless and wide-eyed.
“They are at the beginning of their career, and they want to soak up everything,” Russell said. “They are present in every moment on stage.”
This internationally known company’s dancers range in age from 18 to 25. After working in this company, the dancers move on to the parent company, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, or to other high-profile contemporary dance companies. Dancers from around the world audition for HS2. Only a few are chosen.
On Saturday evening, six dancers, three males and three females, from the troupe will perform six pieces. They will use ballet, jazz and modern movements in works that are set to folk, classical and modern music.
“Never Was,” a duet, is set to the Baroque music of George Frideric Handel and Henry Purcell and was written and choreographed by the company’s choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. This contemporary work features Emilie Leriche, 19, and Johnny McMillan, 20.
“I really love this duet,” Leriche said. “This piece pushes us very hard. All the movements are technically challenging, but it’s fulfilling.”
Leriche, who began dancing eight years ago, will perform this number in a simple, dark teal floral-patterned outfit. Her partner, McMillan, who has also danced for eight years, found the duet challenging as well, but he grew to love it.
“It’s very linear,” McMillan said. “It’s very angular.”
McMillan, who hails from Canada, studied jazz, acrobatics and ballet. After playing hockey for 10 years, he switched over to dance.
“I just fell in love with it,” McMillan said. “I went for it, and it stuck.”
McMillan also has a talent for choreography. His piece “Path and Observations” will be performed by all six dancers on Saturday night.
For this new work, McMillan was inspired by what he described as an image of “a little nomad girl in a beautiful parka.” He researched Scandinavia’s indigenous Sami people and wrote a piece that was inspired by these reindeer herders and their folk tunes. Through this piece, he works with the concepts of grounding oneself and simplifying one’s life.
Indigenous music is used throughout “Path and Observations.”
Another piece, “Pacopepepluto,” is performed by three male dancers, including McMillan. This seven-minute work is a suite of strong male solos that features the music of Dean Martin. Unusual lighting and effects will accompany the piece.
“Bonobo,” another work, includes all six troupe members. This piece, written by the winner of the 2011 National Choreographic Competition, Penny Saunders, explores performers and their performances. Although it is not a period piece, “Bonobo” was inspired by Vaudeville.
Russell said that the audience will come away from the HS2 performance wanting to see more dance.
“There’s so much to watch,” Russell said. “The dancers are all ready to perform.”
This athletic troupe performs year-round and has traveled worldwide.
“This performance will speak to people 3 years old to however many years old,” McMillan said “It’s a very welcoming event.”