On Edge

Hubbard Street Dance’s gay leader Glenn Edgerton brings a dancer’s perspective to contemporary troupe

STEVEN LINDSEY  | Contributing Writer stevencraiglindsey@me.com

Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company
MOTION, EMOTION | Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company, led by Glenn Edgerton, continues to evolve after 33 years as a leading contemporary dance troupe.

HUBBARD STREET DANCE
Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flora St.
Nov. 19 at 7:30 p.m. $25–$125.
ATTPAC.org

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Ask six people to describe contemporary dance and you’ll get six different responses. As an art form, it encompasses so many varied techniques, styles and points of view, categorizing it as one thing is a fool’s errant.

And that’s perfectly fine with Glenn Edgerton. “As long as they make you feel something and have an emotional impact,” he says, “we’ve done our job.”

For 33 years, Chicago’s Hubbard Street Dance Company has been one of the nation’s most celebrated troupes, and under Edgerton, a dancer for 11 years who has  served as artistic director since 2009, it has continued to innovate and excite. TITAS presents the company at the Winspear Opera House Friday.

Edgerton’s background as a dancer, with both Nederlands Dans Theater and the Joffrey Ballet, shaped his ethic and his creative vision.
“I’m always fashioning my decisions, trying to put myself in the dancer’s position. How would it have felt? How would it have been for me if certain things are going in one direction?” Edgerton says. “I try to work so that my dancers will be challenged and inspired. I’m thinking in a dancer’s perspective. I was born a dancer and will die a dancer.”

HSDC’s current roster includes 16 dancers, and Edgerton hopes to add a 17th next year. They’re smaller than some classical dance companies, though they have a great track record for retaining artists and exploring new territory with them as they explore new techniques.

“You have a relationship with them in terms of their artistic output. We have dancers in the company who have been here 10, 11 years and then some that have just joined. I adore each and every one of them,” he says.

Becoming a part of the elite team doesn’t necessarily fit any specific molds, but Edgerton can almost immediately sense in an audition when a dancer might be a good fit.

“You know when you see it and you know when you work with them. It’s one thing to see a dancer in a ballet class who has a wonderful technique, but in a contemporary company you have to be ready to move in a much more extreme way than classical ballet. You have to have an inherent ability to try many different types of dance and just have that overall feel that you’re a dancer and not stuck to one technique or another.”

Diversity of style is a hallmark of HSDC, perhaps most perfectly evidenced in one of the numbers being performed Friday night: “With Physikal Linguistiks, you have Victor [Quijada], who came from Los Angeles where he was a hip-hop dancer. He has a real ballet background also, but when he’s choreographing he’s using all of those kinds of techniques and dance moves into his work. It’s also interesting because he’s taking the dancers out in the audience.”

Edgerton is reluctant to admit that shows like So You Think You Can Dance have a positive impact on exposing new people to dance, but he says they do have their place.

“There’s an accessibility with those programs, but it could be confused when [viewers] come to the theater and see concert dance,” he says. “It’s cool and hip and fun on TV, but in the theater it’s more artful. There’s more thought-provoking imagery built into these pieces. All those TV programs are much more commercially minded and geared to more fantastic technique and movements that are more thrilling. Ours are thrilling, too, but the approach is a little different. People need that awareness going in.”

If that means no celebrity judges screaming like morons for camera time, then that’s an entirely good thing. But HSDC has been judged on its merits by the dance world for more than three decades, and clearly it’s a winning combination of art, choreography and technique that keep it relevant and evocative of the universe around it.

“I’m not boasting, I’m just stating that we’re one of the important, international contemporary dance companies in the world,” Edgerton says. “And I’m excited to bring it to Dallas and this spectacular new performing arts center.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 19, 2010.

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