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Hubbard Street’s ‘One Thousand Pieces’ remains infinitely complex and enormously abstract

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: Dancers JessicTong left Jesse Bechard 'One ThousPieces' by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. | © Todd Rosenberg

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago: Dancers Jessica Tong, left, and Jesse Bechard in "One Thousand Pieces" by resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. | © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2012

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When: Dec. 14 at 8 p.m. and Dec. 15 at 3 p.m.

Where: Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph

Tickets: $25-$90

Info: (312) 850-9744;

Run time: 90 minutes, with one intermission

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Updated: April 14, 2014 4:47PM

Ambitious new works like Alejandro Cerrudo’s “One Thousand Pieces” — the full-length piece he created for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago — invariably need time to cook both in the bodies of the dancers and the perceptions of the audience.

His 90-minute dance, which was inspired by “American Windows,” the cobalt-blue stained glass mural permanently on display at the Art Institute of Chicago, and which is set to the music of Philip Glass, debuted in October, 2012. Now, for the company’s winter season at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, it is being reprised for the first time, providing an opportunity to find new delights in its complex structure and imagery, and also to be reminded of some of its shortcomings.

From the start, Cerrudo makes it clear that “One Thousand Pieces” is not a literal evocation of Chagall’s mural with its iconic figures in flight, its intimate village houses, its menorah, trees and shards of color and light.

In fact, it is a work in various tones of black and gray (with hints of red and dark blue), and its first half is danced against mirrorlike panels that shift with the same fluid ease as the dancers whose movements are sporadically reflected or refracted by them. In many ways this suggests the fractured shapes of the mural’s “pieces of glass” more than its content.

The work’s visually hynoptic second section includes a long sequence in which the dancers move on a silvery surface of water that resembles shattered glass, with three great columns of cloudlike smoke swirling in the background. Throughout Michael Korsch’s gorgeous lighting design, and Thomas Mika’s costumes and set (which also includes geometric panels of glass that float aloft), are crucial elements of Cerrudo’s vision.

The theme and variations Cerrudo has developed are impressive, with duets full of off-kilter lifts, a hint of intimacy more abstract than real, semaphoric arm gestures, separate groupings of women and men, couples moving in tandem or in canon like skaters, and a massing of the full company (and Hubbard Street 2 dancers) at crucial moments.

But Glass’ music (drawn from his works for solo instruments and chamber ensembles, orchestral arrangements and operas, and original compositions for films composed over 30 years, from 1976 to 2006), provides more of a color wash than a dramatic motor for the piece. And a certain monotony begins to set in at times, although the dancing, as one always expects from Hubbard Street, is sublime.

An unusual spoken interlude in the first half of the work offers a nice change of tone, as dancer Jonathan Fredrickson, lowered from the rafters on a wire, deftly narrates a little tale of two lovers that reminds us that true love is as infinite as the universe. Very Chagall-like.

Among the flawless dancers, the work of Jessica Tong and Quinn B Wharton struck a particular chord for their notably emotional-charged chemistry. Tong has emerged as a dancer of formidable dramatic intensity, along with Ana Lopez (clearly Cerrudo’s muse), powerhouse Jacqueline Burnett, elegant Alice Klock and striking Bryna Pascoe. Both David Schultz and Kevin Hortin were in exceptionally dynamic form Friday night, with fine work by Jason Hortin, Garrett Patrick Anderson and Jesse Bechard.

True, you might well leave “One Thousand Pieces” wishing for somewhat less abstraction. But it is a sure bet that having seen Cerrudo’s work you will never look at Chagall’s windows in quite the same way again.


Twitter: @HedyWeissCritic

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