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Dance Tue Aug 19 2014

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago premieres Kyle Abraham's "Counterpoint"

Hubbard Street Dancer Kellie Epperheimer, foreground, Kyle Abraham, left. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.JPG

Photo by Todd Rosenberg.

Chicago Dancing Festival returns for its eighth year Wednesday, and for the first time, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago members will perform a festival-commissioned piece--Counterpoint by Kyle Abraham.

While Hubbard Street Dance has been involved in the festival since its inception, working on a commissioned piece is something new.

"This is our first time being part of the commissioning...which has become a major part [of the festival]," said Hubbard Street Dance Manager of Communications Zachary Whittenburg. "They had the idea that Kyle would create a piece for Hubbard Street."

Chicago Dancing Festival brings together dance companies from across the country to celebrate dance, raise awareness and accessibility to dance and lift the profile of Chicago as a world-class dance city.

Abraham, a 2013 MacArthur Fellow, choreographed Counterpoint as one of three premiere performances commissioned by Chicago Dancing Festival this year. The company worked with Abraham for 10 days in May and spent two weeks together in August perfecting the 22-minute piece. Seven dancers share the stage for Counterpoint.

Counterpoint remains true to its name. Abraham said he began choreography by constructing two opposing phrases and building from that foundation. "The title was kind of the first thing...playing with that idea throughout," Abraham said. ""In my personal and professional life, constantly things kept happening that have abrupt shifts to them."

During a recent rehearsal, dancers' broad and sweeping movements were tempered by small flicks of the wrists, rigid upper bodies and precise piqués. Quick motions abruptly turned to moments of stillness and extension.

The dancing is intricate and technical, but maintains an intentional playfulness. The dancers seem to acknowledge each other little, except during quiet moments when legs extend, eyes lock and hands clasp.

""I think there's some humor it...making fun of some of that classicism," Abraham said.

The piece begins with a single dancer moving through silence and transitions between dancers in pairs and small groups.

While dancing his choreography, Abraham wanted to give the dancers room to explore the concept of counterpoints themselves.

"I want to honor who they are as artists," he said. "I want collaboration to create something hopefully special."

Counterpoint debuts at the Harris Theater on August 20 and will be simulcast at Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The August 20 performance also features works by dancers from The Juilliard School, Martha Graham Dance Company, Stars of American Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet.

Chicago Dancing Festival runs from August 20 through 23, featuring ballet, modern and hip-hop dancers and drawing companies from across the country. Tickets are sold out for the August 20 Harris Theater performance, but no tickets are needed for the Pritzker Pavilion simulcast. For more information on Chicago Dancing Festival and on how to see the shows, visit


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Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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