In the arts, change is essential — any cultural entity that doesn’t evolve risks losing its audience and relevance. But the best of the past should never be jettisoned lightly. In fact, holding on to identity-defining works can be more than an exercise in nostalgia; it can be key to reminding artists and audiences alike where it has been and where it has gone from there. With its Spring Series at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs a program featuring Nacho Duato’s “Jardí Tancat,” a work that has become a keystone in the company’s ever-expanding repertoire.
Initially created by the Spanish choreographer for the Nederlands Dans Theater, “Jardí Tancat” was first performed by Hubbard Street in 1997. The piece not only introduced audiences to an artist relatively unknown in the U.S., but it played a role in the company’s growth from a jazz-meets-ballet aesthetic to a more wide-ranging modern outlook, as founder Lou Conte sought out work by a range of artists, including Daniel Ezralow, Jiří Kylián, Ohad Naharin, Lynne Taylor-Corbett and Twyla Tharp. “Nacho was the first European choreographer that Lou Conte brought to work with Hubbard Street,” says artistic director Glenn Edgerton. “It changed the flavor of the company.”
A dance for three couples set to Catalan music recorded by vocalist María del Mar Bonet i Verdaguer, “Jardí Tancat” (meaning “enclosed garden”) conjures the simple yet demanding life of folks working the land. “Nacho’s work has a continuing theme: pride of the human spirit,” Edgerton says. “The lyrics of the music, along with the choreography, reflect these ideas — the strength and spirit of the people.”
Over the years, as both Duato’s and Hubbard Street’s reputations have grown, the company has welcomed other works from the choreographer, including the Haitian voodoo-inspired “Rassemblement” and “Arcangelo,” set to Corelli and Scarlatti. “Nacho and I danced together at Nederlands Dans Theater and we’ve continued as friends since 1989,” Edgerton says. “I plan to continue staging his works at Hubbard Street. As unique as each piece is, there is a common thread of strength, power and hope that continuously appears throughout his works. When watching a Duato work, the audience is left in awe.”
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
March 16-19, Harris Theater, 205 E. Randolph. For tickets ($30 and up), visit Hubbardstreetdance.com/spring