Dance for Life has always felt like a sports arena to me. The energy is so palpable, and there is so much support and interaction with the audience.
No two things are exactly alike. And likewise, no two dancers perform a piece of choreography exactly the same way. There are nuances in muscle tension that create unique textures in each artist’s body; each unique body creates its own particular set of shapes, even when set at the same angle. A unifying concept or theme to a choreographic work is subject to interpretation, and each dancer creates their artistic interpretation based on their personal experiences and personalities. There are even variations in the ways that music is heard — one dancer might hone in on the drums to inform their timing, while another uses melody to inspire emotion. These differences are what help define an artist’s voice. And when these unique voices unify, they create a captivating chorus of movement.
Those voices become even more powerful when they are interpreted through the right choreographic channel, and there are few choreographers who rival the interpretive prowess of Ohad Naharin. Of his extensive and intensive body of work, one of the most well-known is DECADANCE — an evening length program created from reconstructions of past choreographies. The program has been performed by select dance companies around the world and has evolved over the decades, reflecting Naharin’s growth as an artist as well as the particular aesthetic of the company and artists the program is set on. At Chicago’s upcoming Dance for Life 2019, internationally-acclaimed company Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will present an excerpt of DECADANCE, giving audiences a chance to experience the truest, most pure artistic voices at their finest.
DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera had a chance to speak with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancer Rena Butler about performing DECADANCE at this year’s Dance for Life. We asked Rena about her history with this Naharin classic and her experience performing the work. Here’s what she told us:
It’s crazy to think that my career has been following a sort of life cycle, where now I am in the company, performing this particular work at Dance for Life.
“I remember seeing Hubbard Street for the first time. They performed a version of DECADANCE by Ohad Naharin when I was about 11 or 12 years old. I was mesmerized: the energy, the oddities. It’s crazy to think that my career has been following a sort of life cycle, where now I am in the company, performing this particular work at Dance for Life.
DECADANCE is an evening of work by choreographer Ohad Naharin. The evening length performance in its entirety is an evolving collection of works that is created and curated by Ohad himself depending on which company he sets his work on. The collection changes with each company.” — Rena Butler
Everywhere we perform it, when that curtain comes up, people start cheering and roaring…
“Dance for Life has always felt like a sports arena to me. The energy is so palpable, and there is so much support and interaction with the audience.
I think this section of DECADANCE was chosen for Dance for Life because it is a true crowd pleaser. The company will be performing the section, “Echad Mi Yodea”. “Echad” is jam-packed with vitality! It is an accumulating phrase that we, the dancers, shout over and over as we decumulate our clothing. It is highly athletic and supercharged — definitely one of my favorite works I’ve ever seen in my life thus far. It’s so incredible that now I’m able to dance it!
I think our director, Glenn Edgerton, chose this section because of the audience’s familiarity with it. Everywhere we perform it, when that curtain comes up, people start cheering and roaring…in Mexico, New York, Chicago and everywhere else we’ve been with it this past season. The text in the beginning of this section is about finding similarities in opposites: pleasure in pain, panic in the laughter. There is something to be felt when the audience is watching us persevere through the exhaustion of our athleticism. It’s magic. It also acts as Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s preview for our upcoming Spring Series in 2020.” — Rena Butler
One can see so many different colors coming together, whether on or off stage.
“With every series that Hubbard Street performs, there is a full company piece somewhere in the program. It’s a beautiful experience to be able to dance with everyone on stage, working together and finding flow and connectivity. It brings a sense of camaraderie and cohesion, plus it’s a blast!
It’s nice to have this world of multiple voices saying the same thing. One can see so many different colors coming together, whether on or off stage. There tends to be a lot of pressure when dancing for a company such as Hubbard Street, because we’re well-known in the US and abroad. There is also a lot of support and encouragement behind this pressure, not only from our multifaceted audiences but from my colleagues as well. We strive to be our best selves as artists and as humans all the time, and everyone puts in the work for a connected performance.” — Rena Butler
It’s my favorite experience with the company, because we’re all working together towards a common goal.
“Most of the time, when it isn’t a full company piece, we are always backstage in the wings watching the performance while warming up. There is a very strong sense of community within the company. Some of us watch to get an energetic sense of the show, while some of us watch to just enjoy our colleagues dancing beautifully. Either way, you can really feel the love from the wings.
When the wings are empty, and we’re all onstage, it’s WILD! You really do feel all of it at once: the support, the love for what we do, the magic, the tension, exhaustion and the spontaneity. It’s my favorite experience with the company, because we’re all working together towards a common goal. I feel confident in saying that if you come and watch Hubbard Street Dance Chicago perform (especially “Echad Mi Yodea”) you’ll be in the throes of these feelings, too. I guarantee that you’ll leave the theater wanting more!” — Rena Butler
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will perform at Dance for Life 2019 on Saturday, August 17 at 6pm at the Auditorium Theatre (50 E Ida B Wells Dr. Chicago, 60605). Tickets are available online at tickets.auditoriumtheatre.org.
For more information, visit chicagodancersunited.org.
For more information on upcoming HSDC performances, visit www.hubbardstreetdance.com/tickets-events.