The Washington Post

At CityDance, the kids are all over each other

Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance company dancer Lissa Smith. (Todd Rosenberg Photography)

Would you like a complimentary glass of chardonnay? Or a juice box? That was the question posed during intermission at CityDance Studio Theater on Saturday night. Inside the theater, however, all patrons, regardless of age, were served a mixed bill of teenage innocence and very adult modern dance.

CityDance, a school based at Strathmore, is conducting an experiment of sorts by presenting its conservatory students alongside professional companies. The program notes for Saturday’s performance didn’t distinguish between the local teens and the visiting pros from Chicago’s Hubbard Street 2, and the goal of the ambiguity aim seemed clear: Our kids are going to be professional dancers someday!

A few of them may well be. But it was flummoxing to watch a ponytailed teen perform a competition solo, then see two Hubbard Street dancers do a pas de deux about a very volatile relationship.

Good contemporary dance is sensual without being erotic, and if there was a unifying theme between the three nuanced works that Hubbard Street performed, it was sex. All seven dancers were technically solid and emotionally flexible. Also: They looked like film stars. The first half of the program — following five works by the kids, some as young as 11 — closed with “Lickety-Split,” a suite by Spanish choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo. The plucked banjo and indie moonshine crooning of Devendra Banhart was the perfect sonic contrast for a piece that began with Richard Walters caressing the length of Alicia Delgadillo’s slip-clad body as the singer warbled, “Would you show some skin for me, my dear?”

Fluid movement contrasted with the rough-hewn music and kept the piece from getting sentimental — that and a suggestive use of humor, including a toe-stroking lyric about the sweet smell of a woman’s feet. Alice Klock’s duet “. . . and other stories of imperfection” explored a darker relationship. Felicia McBride and Andrew Wright stood side by side and jerked themselves down by pulling on their own elbows. The couple was clearly hurting themselves as much as each other. The show closed with “Recall,” Robyn Mineko Williams’s techno playground for urban hipsters. The women pulsed as if working catwalks, turning fierce right angles, and tugged suggestively on the men’s ties. Lissa Smith took on the come-hither role, beckoning Walters as he walked by. He turned, and after a few artful contortions, he was rocking her in his lap, gently, as if she were half woman, half girl.

Ritzel is a freelance writer.



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