[Craig D. Black] had the opportunity to take part in the creative process of two world premiere works created by two choreographers he has long admired and respected: fellow company member Rena Butler and critically-acclaimed choreographer Kyle Abraham.
The rich experiences life has to offer become much richer when the people we admire and respect are there to bear witness and take part. This heightened richness of shared experience has also been at the forefront of many moments for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago dancer Craig D. Black as he prepares for the company’s upcoming performance of Forge Forward at Chicago’s Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Black had the opportunity to take part in the creative process of two world premiere works created by two choreographers he has long admired and respected: fellow company member Rena Butler and critically-acclaimed choreographer Kyle Abraham.
Rena Butler, a Chicago native, has spent her impressive career among some of the giants of the concert dance world, including being a dancer and repetiteur for Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company. Since joining Hubbard Street Dance Chicago in 2017, Butler has been hard at work sharing her choreographic vision with companies and universities both local and international including The Ailey School/Fordham, SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance, The New Orleans Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Grammy award-winning jazz composer Terrence Blanchard, Taipei National University of the Arts, CHTV Stories television series in Switzerland, The Dance Division at Loyola University in Chicago. In March 2018, Butler was named HSDC’s Choreographic Fellow, and premiered III.Third at the company’s 2018 winter performance of dance(e)volve at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. Her second full company work, This, That, and the Third explores code-switching as a tool for conflict resolution.
Kyle Abraham, originally from Pittsburgh, PA, continues to be a major force in dance as both an independent artist/choreographer and with his company, Kyle Abraham/Abraham.In.Motion. Hailed in 2011 by OUT Magazine as the “best and brightest creative talent to emerge in New York City in the age of Obama”, Abraham has received numerous awards including the Doris Duke Artist Award (2016), the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award (2012), a Bessie Award for Outstanding Performance in Dance for his work in The Radio Show (2010) and a Princess Grace Award for Choreography (2010), among many others. His highly athletic, visually stimulating choreographic works and performances typically revolve around movement as the key to discovering identity and diving into personal history. In his upcoming premiere of The Bystander for HSDC, Abraham was receptive to the thoughts and contributions of the brilliant company artists, creating a much deeper personal connection to the work for each dancer.
DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera recently had the chance to catch up with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Company Dancer Craig D. Black. A powerhouse himself, Black (also a Princess Grace Awardee and recipient of the 2011 Lorna Strassler Award for Student Excellence at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival) celebrates his third season with the company, as well as the chance to work with Butler and Abraham. Here’s what Craig told us about the creative process with the amazing, aforementioned choreographers:
“This, That, and the Third” shows each dancers individuality and growth in the work while also giving us a peek into the personal challenges and experiences Rena has faced in her life.
Kristi Licera: In 2017, both you and 2019 Princess Grace Awardee for Choreography Rena Butler joined the ranks of the incredible artists at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Prior to joining the company, you shared mutual connections and a similar circle of peers; it wasn’t until you both joined HSDC that you had a chance to connect face to face. Over the last two years, you have had the opportunity to watch and nourish each other’s creative growth, and soon you will be assisting Rena in her next choreographic commission. Can you tell us more about the work Rena is currently setting on the company for Forge Forward and what the experience in the studio has been like?
Craig D. Black: I would have to say that Rena’s piece was originally based on the idea of code-switching. While that aspect is still present, I feel the piece has evolved to focus on the connections between each dancer. This, That, and the Third shows each dancers individuality and growth in the work while also giving us a peek into the personal challenges and experiences Rena has faced in her life.
Even when we were not dancing or creating physically, our voices/opinions were heard. We were ALL part of this beautiful process.
Craig: She speaks a lot about becoming more comfortable in her own skin. Rena began many of her rehearsals with a personal meditation, and I feel it helped us not only focus in on the task at hand, but also allowed us to find comfort within ourselves. I took that time to ask myself to be patient and present–my personal mantra for this process.
I really enjoyed this process for the inclusivity. Even when we were not dancing or creating physically, our voices/opinions were heard. We were ALL part of this beautiful process.
On the first day he asked what we would like to incorporate in the piece. Two requests made were partnering and text.
Kristi: Forge Forward also features a world premiere by renowned choreographer Kyle Abraham. HSDC recently spent three weeks in Jackson Hole, Wyoming with Abraham in a process that involved the company splitting into two interchangeable casts, which added a unique dimension to the experimental nature of making dance. Can you give us some insight into what it was like work with Abraham?
Craig: I have known Kyle for quite sometime; we were both Princess Grace Awardees in 2010. This, however, was my first time creating with Kyle. Kyle made it a point to have a very inclusive process. On the first day he asked what we would like to incorporate in the piece. Two requests made were partnering and text. As we continued creating together, a narrative presented itself. Kyle also added a few layers by allowing us to create backstories and by making our casting interchangeable. I had a great time working with Kyle and cant wait to premiere his new piece, The Bystander. I don’t want to give away any of the fun details, so you’ll have to come watch Hubbard Street in our Forge Forward series!
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents Forge Forward Thursday, November 7 at 7:30pm, Saturday, November 9 at 8pm & Sunday November 10 at 3pm at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance (205 E. Randolph Dr. Chicago, 60601). Tickets and additional information are available at www.hubbardstreetdance.com.