Crossing The Line

A glorious moment by HSDC company members in Tabula Rose.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago proves that some rules are meant to be broken.

When attending a dance concert there are certain unspoken rules that society expects audience members and dancers to abide by. They are as followed:

1. The invisible line separating the audience from the dancers can not be crossed.

2. Dancers are typically to be seen and not heard.

3. Dancers should not break character.

Throughout dance history many choreographers have dared to break these rules, including Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Twyla Tharp just to name a few. And now Victar Quijada, choreographer of Physikal Linguistiks, can also be added to this list. With the help of the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago company, Quijada shows audience members at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas that some rules are meant to be broken.

Physikal Linguistiks starts with a single male dancer (center stage) breaking down a phrase of movement while three other male dancers, standing causally, watch from the sidelines. The space itself is not what you typically expect to see at a dance performance. There are no backdrops or wings used in the first part of the dance therefore exposing all the electrical equipment and storage containers usually hidden from our sight. As the dancer continues to work on his moves the other three slowly approach and one by one begin correcting each of his movements using their hands, feet and even head to get their point across.

As the music tempo picks up so do the dancers’ movements as they push each other closer to the front of the stage where one dancer almost falls into the audience if the other two weren’t there to catch him. The dancers then turn around and apologize to the lady in the front row whose lap the dancer almost fell on. They have broken Rule #1. The dancers break this rule again when they exit off the front of the stage passing a bewildered usher on the way. We watch as the usher (who is actually one of the dancers) starts to weave her way through a row of seats. As she slowly makes her way down the row,, swaying and stretching to the music, she is unfazed by the feet and purses sometimes obstructing her path. Very rarely do I get the opportunity to see dancers interact with the audience and I couldn’t help but wonder how much of her movements were choreographed and how much was improvisation

I didn’t have much time to think about it because the next section of the piece had begun and I was mesmerized by the male soloist on stage performing a series of movements that incorporated not only modern and ballet but also some break dancing and urban steps. And it wasn’t long before Rule #2 and #3 were broken. After completing his first phrase of moment the dancer put his hands up and asked the sound manager to stop the music.  He then asked if he could try his last phrase again from the top. Rarely do you hear dancers speak, let along stop the music and ask for a do over. Yet again Quijada surprises us with this in-depth look into the relationship between the dancer and his environment.

To top it off the dancer than asks a female dancer to come out and walk through the next section while the sound manager tried to find his cue. With no music to follow the male dancer begins to talk his way through the duet giving the audience a unique opportunity to hear what he is thinking when executing each step. “This reminds me of always being there for others,” he explains as he lies on his back one leg stretched up supporting the back of his female partner. And as he slowly brings his leg down allowing his partner to slide safely to the ground, he says,”And never letting them down.” This gets a chuckle from the audience.

Physikal Linguistiks ends as it begins with a lone male dancer working on his choreography, breaking it down one step at a time as the lights fade to black.


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