Press Materials

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“They play as if they’re a single, eight-armed organism”
-NPR Music

“Virtuosity and deft, precisely timed wit”
-Washington Post

“Commandingly elegant”
-New York Times

-Alex Ross, The New Yorker

“An inspirational sense of fun and curiosity”
-Minnesota Star-Tribune

“The group performed with absolute aplomb”
-Boston Globe

-Chicago Tribune

“Mysterious, funny, endlessly inventive”
-Boston Classical Review

-Independent (UK)

“Technical precision, palpable groove and outstanding sound”
-Time Out New York 

-New York Times

“Savvy and hyper-talented young percussionists”
-Musical Toronto

“Fluency and zest”
-Andrew Clements, the Guardian (UK)

“Undeniably groovy…masterfully performed”
-Time Out Chicago

“One of the country’s finest new music ensembles”
-Chicago Reader

“The musicality and fierce focus of Third Coast Percussion electrified the room.”
-Sarasota Herald-Tribune 

Reviews and Features

OU Wind Symphony to collaborate with Grammy Award-winning percussion ensemble

October 28, 2018
by Sydney Walters 

Ohio University is known for connecting its students to world-renowned groups and individuals, and the School of Music is next in line to provide such an opportunity. On Tuesday, the Ohio University Wind Symphony with be performing a concert with the Grammy Award-winning ensemble, Third Coast Percussion.

Third Coast Percussion is a quartet of percussionists from Chicago that also serves as the ensemble-in-residence at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. “We bring excellent performances of percussion music to audiences of all ages and backgrounds across the country and around the world,” David Skidmore, the executive director of Third Coast Percussion and an ensemble member, said in an email.

Skidmore said he hopes the ensemble shows students’ similar exciting performances to those he experienced when he was a student listening to professionals. “It was always thrilling when professional musicians were brought to campus so that we could see and hear examples of the types of performances that we might want to give,” Skidmore said in an email.

Andrew Trachsel, director of bands at Ohio University, said the students in the Wind Symphony will be benefiting significantly just from being around the performers in Third Coast Percussion. “Anytime that we can interact with the leaders in our profession, it can make us better,” he said. The students in the Wind Symphony also understand what they’re gaining from the collaboration. “We gain so much in terms of understanding what it takes to be a professional musician,” said Drew Koziel, a freshman studying music education and a trumpet player in the Wind Symphony.

Aside from the opportunities given to the musicians in the Wind Symphony, this performance promises to be a memorable one for the audience as well. The quartet will be opening the performance solo, with a performance of a piece by composer Steve Reich. They’ll then be joined by the Wind Symphony to perform a piece that Skidmore says is, “incredibly virtuosic and very beautiful.” During the second half, they’ll bring the audience a new listening experience with a piece by composer Donnacha Dennehy. “The audience-goers will get to see first-hand how Third Coast is making their sound,” Trachsel said.

Putting this collaboration together wasn’t easy, though. In 2015, Ohio University Bands and four other university bands got together to commission a band version of one of David Little’s previous pieces, “Radiant Child.” The original piece, ironically, was written for Third Coast Percussion four years prior. Trachsel viewed this as an opportunity to bring Third Coast Percussion to Ohio University to perform the piece with them.

Finding time for a Grammy-winning ensemble to come to the small town of Athens took a little time. Three years, to be exact. But the excitement from both groups is evident. “We love working with the percussion students at the school of music, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity,” Skidmore said in an email.

If You Go:

What: Third Coast Percussion with Ohio University Wind Symphony
When: 7:30 p.m., Tues., October 30, 2018
Where: Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium
Admission: $8 for students; $13 for seniors; $15 for general admission


New York Times: 10 Dance Performances to See This Weekend

October 18, 2018
by Gia Kourlas

Thanks to the New York Times for including our performances with Seán Curran Company in “10 Dance Performances to See This Weekend”! We are looking forward to performing at BAM’s Next Wave Festival, October 24-27 at 7:30pm. If you’re in NYC, stop by and say hello!

SEAN CURRAN COMPANY AND THIRD COAST PERCUSSION at BAM Harvey Theater (Oct 24-27, 7:30 p.m.). Curran celebrates his company’s 20th anniversary with live music by Third Coast Percussion and, naturally, some dances. Along with two early works, “Abstract Concrete” (2000) and “Quadrabox Redux” (2001), the choreographer unveils the New York premiere of “Everywhere All the Time.” Featuring a set by the landscape architect Diana Balmori, who died in 2016, and percussion music by the Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, “Everywhere” promises to be lively: Curran, a former member of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company, started out as a traditional Irish step dancer.


Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

We are thrilled to get on the road with our long-time friends at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, presenting THERE WAS NOTHING / FOR ALL ITS FURY, a collaborative project more than five years in the making. Our first stop is Ann Arbor, MI, where we will perform with HSDC on one night of their two-night presentation: “Two Different Programs.” We will tour with HSDC to six more cities this year, including New York and L.A., but Ann Arbor is the only place where this dual performance will take place. Read this interview below with HSDC Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton to learn more about the company, about “Two Different Programs,” and about the inspiration for THERE WAS NOTHING choreographers Movement Art Is (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck) and FOR ALL ITS FURY choreographer Emma Portner.

Catch the next performance of THERE WAS NOTHING / FOR ALL ITS FURY, part of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s
“Two Different Programs”.
October 20, 8:00pm
Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI.
“Two Different Programs” is presented by the University Musical Society.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Art is a valuable source of individual expression, but it’s an equally important force for social change. Towering murals on the streets of Detroit, songs sung by political dissonants and defiant protest art painted onto cracked cardboard for the March for Our Lives are testaments to this. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, in collaboration with the University Musical Society (UMS), returns to the Power Center this fall with “Two Different Programs,” to use contemporary dance as their personal appeal for action.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago was founded in 1977 and is in its 9th season under the artistic direction of Glenn Edgerton. The modern dance company molds their dance around changing social issues and is known for providing collaborative opportunities with up-and-coming artists. “Two Different Programs” is no exception.

Oct. 19 presents “Decadance/Chicago,” a collaboration with iconic Israel-based choreographer Ohad Naharin, known for his distinct gaga style of dance and his famous piece “Minus 16.” Oct. 20 brings 23-year-old viral choreographer Emma Portner and Movement Art Is, an organization that aims to use movement as a form of social education. Live music from Grammy-winning group Third Coast Percussion and a composition by Devonté Hynes adds an innovative touch to Saturday’s performance.

In a phone interview with The Daily, Glenn Edgerton further illuminated on Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s fall program and his time as an artistic director.


The Michigan Daily: What makes Hubbard Street Dance Chicago unlike other dance companies?

GE: The dancers are incredible. They bring a beautiful sense of movement quality and technical ability, mixed with great imagination and thought-provoking intention. We also give opportunities to emerging choreographers, and this, mixed with our dancers, gives a great opportunity for choreographers to improve their imagination. But we’re not just a dance company: We have a huge education program. We also teach to autistic children and people with Parkinson’s. They’re dancers in their own right. These classes make our mission very satisfying; we feel like we’re making a difference in the dance world.

TMD: Given your prior background as a professional dancer with the Nederlands Dans Theater, what drew you to directing?

GE: As a dancer, I was always aware of my directors and curious of why choices were made. I specifically remember, as a dancer, you’re very consumed with your individual performance or role. I wanted to expand my mindset but stay in the same art form. Directing is something I’ve always wanted to do; as a child, I was putting on shows in my garage and selling tickets for a quarter. Putting on a performance is something I’ve always done.

TMD: One of the choreographers you highlight in this fall program is Ohad Naharin, an artist you’ve worked with frequently. What has it been like working with him all these years?

GE: I’ve known Ohad for 30 years and it gives me great satisfaction to have my dancers take part in such significant work. ‘Decadence Chicago,’ the piece choreographed especially for our company, is a wonderful journey from beginning to end.

TMD: Do you think it has become easier for your dancers to work with Naharin’s style over the years?

GE: Absolutely. We’ve performed so many of his works, between ‘Minus 16’ in 2000 and ‘Decadence Chicago’ in 2018. In those 18 years, we’ve had a new work from Ohad every two or three years. That development and investment is wonderful to see.

TMD: Your second performance includes Emma Portner; what has it been like working with such an emerging artist?

GE: She’s incredibly imaginative. She’s recently got into a whole concept of environmental issues, so her participation in this evening includes her feelings towards the Earth, how to make it sustainable and how we treat each other through our connection with the Earth. I love finding new choreographers that are just at the brink of starting their career. Emma is now booming and is being sought after all over; she (has) dabbled in so many different areas already at such a young age.

TMD: Movement Art Is is also focused on our relationship with the environment. Would you say the combination of Emma Portner and Movement Art Is has made Saturday’s performance take on an environmental theme?

GE: Yes, it has. Movement Art Is participated in the Standing Rock Pipeline Protest, and they’re depicting the narrative they learned from an Indian tribe in North Dakota through their dance. It’s unusual to see these hip-hop artists (Jon Boogz and Lil Buck), known for their style of juking and popping and locking, to go into a creative narrative piece.

TMD: Do you think Third Coast Percussion has fit well with your company’s style?

GE: I’ve wanted to work with them for many years. We’re of like mind: We’re both open-minded and collaborative. We’re flexible and can go with ideas that have been thrown out and enhance them instead.

TMD: As an artistic director, where does your inspiration come from?

GE: It comes from all over. It can be from a conversation, something I’ve read, a video, a movie. My intent artistically is to keep the company relevant. ‘What’s going on in the moment?’ is always something I ask myself. We’re forever evolving and changing — sometimes you hit the mark and sometimes you don’t. We’re an experimental company and we’re always going to be exploring what’s next.

TMD: What are you expecting from this Ann Arbor crowd?

GE: I’d like the public to walk away and still be thinking about the piece. I want them to feel something beyond just that moment. I don’t want them to leave and hear someone saying to their friend, ‘What do you want to eat for dinner?’ They should still resonate with the work days after the performance.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presents “Two Different Programs”:
“Decadence/Chicago” and “THERE WAS NOTHING / FOR ALL ITS FURY”
October 19-20, 8:00pm
Power Center, Ann Arbor, MI.
“Two Different Programs” is presented by the University Musical Society.
Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.



Review | Seán Curran, Third Coast Percussion

October 6, 2018
by Michael Huebner

It’s hard to imagine a more integrated merger of dance and percussion than that presented Friday at the Alys Stephens Center.

Two dynamic ensembles, each a powerful force in their respective art forms, combined for two retrospective works, then let loose in a world premiere with boundless expression.

No stranger to premieres, the New York-based dance troupe Seán Curran Company has presented 27 of them around the world, according to its web site. Third Coast Percussion, by its very nature, has commissioned a long list of composers on its way to a 2017 Grammy award.

“Everywhere All the Time,” an ASC commission, was presented for the first time at this event, and represented an expansive departure from the two works presented earlier in the program, each reworkings from 2000 and 2001.

Three large movable gates, adorned with black patterns suggestive of woody vines, pervaded “Everywhere.” They were a kind of abstract scenery, their placement defining the varying moods of Seán Curran’s choreography. Sheer windblown costumes suggested underwater movement as the cast of nine “swam” about the stage. The percussionists – two on stage, two in the balcony – began by exploring a variety of tom-toms in Donnacha Dennehy‘s score, “Surface Tension.”

As the sonic atmosphere shifted gears, so did the choreography. Startling percussive bursts and eerie harmonics from bowed metal bars led to greater freedom from the individual dancers, showcasing their fluid, yet rigorous athleticism. During a frenetic solo dance, each dancer exited the stage in tense, dramatic moments, leaving only contemplation. Only then could viewers realize how fully engaged they were.

“Abstract Concrete,” a new incarnation of a Curran work first created in 2000, began the show, presenting 10 dancers lined up in rows and dressed in brightly colored leotards. Branching out, weightless lifts and impeccably precise ensemble reflected the youthful rhythmic and emotional character of TCP and David Skidmore’s score. Quick, stage-wide movement, together with outstretched limbs and a web of interwoven patterns, contributed to the joyful atmosphere.

Even more ebullient was “Quadrabox Redux,” also a revision of an earlier dance. Four dancers sitting on wooden boxes in a remarkably complex display of hand percussion, with some foot moves thrown in. Call it patty-cake on steroids.

The program and New York premiere of “Everywhere All the Time” will take place Oct. 24-27 at the Harvey Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, part of BAM’s 2018 Next Wave Festival.


Season 41 Fall Series Review- Hubbard Street Dance Chicago with Third Coast Percussion

September 28, 2018
by Debra Davy

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago presented a strong and stirring modern collaboration of music, choreography, spoken word, dance, and percussive performance at its Season 41 Fall Series opener on September 27th, 2018. The program is to be repeated September 29th and 30that the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 East Randolph Street, Chicago.

This double World Premiere of dance featured live music on stage a by 2016 Grammy-award winning Chicago-based musical marvels Third Coast Percussion, who are incidentally ensemble-in-residence at Notre Dame University. The 4 virtuoso rhythmists (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore) interacted with each other, multiple instruments and trays of tuned objects during the entire evening’s engagement including starring in an orchestral interlude called Perfectly Voiceless in-between the 2 dance works.

All the music was composed by British pop icon Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), arranged/interpreted by Third Coast Percussion, and it was all of a piece- ethereal, sonic- spacey, throbbing and intensely cerebral; in a word, mesmerizing.

The new dances in premiere were choreographed by Emma Portner and Lil Buck/Jon Boogz, the latter known as Movement Art Is. The program this Fall is a joint exhibition of their mission to meld art forms and highlight social issues.

 The Movement Art Is piece, up first, entitled There Was Nothingis a hyper-hip creation myth. Set around a campfire, performed to a voice-over recitation of original poetry written and intoned by spoken word artist Robin Sanders, it found the dancers popping, jooking and robotically elegantly über-break dancing. A wonderfully clever and sophisticated dance, it served as a showpiece for the choreographers’ ultra-modern integrated interplay of body dynamics.

The Portner piece, entitled For All Its Fury, was a long performance, connected by images of mushrooms incorporated on the backdrop, in riveting featured dancer Rena Butler’s dappled costume and in the largely unrecognizable intoned words of the poem “Mushrooms” by Sylvia Plath. The choreographer also employed certain rather prosaic props- a bottle, a cane, that were, like the fungus artwork, largely unnecessary. The point here is that there was no need for extraneous “unifiers”; the movement and in particular, the music were universal enough to tie together the combinations.

There was a lot happening on stage. In both pieces, the dancers were grouped in various ways, in several sets of costumes including- in the Portner piece- what looked like elastic bandage connecting threads. Through it all, the sinuous and technically stunning Hubbard Street dancers proved that, once again, there are no movements too complex, too “out-there” for them to execute with finesse. While Portner’s choreography has an improvisational spirit, it is very technically complicated and it takes a lot of risks. To tether a group of dancers together and have them slither across a stage behind gigantic draped banners is to be very sure of one’s vision, or very young- Portner is both.

In fact, the positioning of Third Coast Percussion on stage was nothing less than a stroke of genius, as they were at once collaborators, scene-stealers, part of the scenery, part of the action. The dances seemed to be visualizations of the music. If the stated emphasis of this program was to incorporate new ideas with socially responsible ideals, the diverse nature of the creators, performers, and palettes certainly went a long way toward achieving that goal.

Kudos is very much due to the fantastic, spot-on spotlights and strobes of lighting designer Jim Frenchand the organically clever costumes of Hogan McLaughlin.




Hubbard Street Dance’s latest has a nod to mushrooms and a message about Mother Earth

September 28, 2018
by Chris Jones

Hubbard Street’s Season 41 Fall Series asks a lot of its audience: The new environmentalist collaboration between the choreographers Emma Portner, Lil Buck and Jon Boogz runs close to 90 minutes without a break, a relative rarity in the world of contemporary dance.

Alas, there is no discreet exit from the Harris Theater, and thus the price paid by that decision Thursday night was a stream of people heading variously and loudly for the exit, all the way up to the top of the theater. They were missing a very interesting collage of diverse talents, given that the original music here was composed by Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange) and performed live by Chicago’s Third Coast Percussion.

I suspect the artists, most of whom are new to Hubbard Street, wanted to encourage their viewers to make sustained narrative connections about their stated theme of sustainability (and our lack of attention thereto). An inspiration, the artists have said, was Paul Stamets’ book “Mycelium Running,” the thesis of which involves us growing more mushrooms so as to harness the rejuvenating benefits of the fungus parts known as mycelium, weapons in the environmental battle against deforestation, toxic waste and other human-caused debasements of our precious Earth.

That’s not easy to translate into physical movement, but these three young artists certainly manage to intensely express the strange intersectional role played by the human body — at once part of the natural landscape but also the source of its corruption. That compelling ambivalence resonates throughout the piece.

There is text: original poetry performed by Robin Sanders in the Boogz and Lil Buck piece called “There Was Nothing” and, in Portner’s piece, Sylvia Plath’s “Mushrooms” (in an interesting irony, it is noted that the sponsor of the piece is Conagra Brands Foundation). But at least as it reached my ear, the text is indistinct and it was hard to know whether it was intended to interplay with the movement on an equal level or function more as stylized wallpaper. That’s a choice needing to be made.

Similarly, there’s more work yet to do on how to order the space. The Third Coast maestros take up a lot of room, sometimes crunching the incomparable Hubbard Street dancers around their instruments. How the former is meant to interact with the latter is not yet clear — the presence of live musicians always is a gift, but so forceful a visual presence necessitates decisions on deeper, in-the-moment matters.

To encapsulate all of that: The program is intellectually rigorous and largely meets the challenge of connecting dancer to dust, the stuff to which we all will return. But it still needs to find how to breathe.

Hubbard Street’s Percussion-Driven Experiment Probes Heaven and Hell on Earth

September 28, 2018
by Hedy Weiss

Just hours after a high-stakes drama unfolded Thursday before the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. (and around the world), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago brought up the lights on its interlocking three-part fall season program that harkened back to the creation of the universe and the ascent of man and then proceeded to conjure an apocalyptic vision of where it all went wrong.

The entire undertaking took 80 intermissionless minutes of stage time, but the final section of the work began to feel like an exercise in eternity.

The Hubbard Street dancers are never less than flawless in their execution of whatever they are given by one choreographer or another. And in this case, the opening work by Jon Boogz and Lil Buck (the co-founders of Movement Art Is, or MAI), which included a partly audible text and a scene of placard-carrying protestors whose posters were blank, held a certain fascination. But the third section of the work, choreographed by Emma Portner – and focused largely on ghoulish scenes of torture and violent power plays with an Orwellian quality – quickly grew tedious in its repetitiveness. And its final section, suggesting a return of human connection, meandered endlessly to no effect.

Without question, the real reason to catch this concert is to hear Chicago’s extraordinary, altogether virtuosic, Grammy Award-winning Third Coast Percussion ensemble playing the hugely complex and evocative original compositions by Devonté Hynes, the British-born composer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist of African heritage who, not surprisingly (just listen to his repeat-till-it-changes riffs) has performed alongside Philip Glass at the Kennedy Center.

Watching the four musicians of Third Coast (Sean Connors, Robert Dillon, Peter Martin and David Skidmore) as they play vibraphones, drums, woodblocks, bells and more in the most dazzling synchrony and counterpoint, as their mallets catch the light, and as they wheel their instruments into various formations, is a fascinating, precision-tooled ballet all its own. (The quartet previously collaborated with Hubbard Street on Jiri Kylian’s thrilling work, “Falling Angels.”)

“There Was Nothing,” the opening work by Boogz and Buck, begins around a little triangle of fire as we hear a narrative about the explosion of forces that gradually led to the universe as we know it, with the arrival of Adam and Eve roughly reiterated in the style of the Genesis telling. Of course it isn’t long before all that is Eden-like erupts into destruction. (The overall program is said to have been inspired by Paul Stamets’ book, “Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World,” about how fungi can save the environment.)

The fluid, organic movement of the dancers (Craig D. Black Jr., Jacqueline Burnett, Gaby Diaz, Michael Gross, Adrienne Lipson, David Schultz, Kevin J. Shannon and the always animated Alicia Delgadillo) possessed the usual Hubbard Street magic.

Third Coast had the stage to itself for the evening’s second section, “Perfectly Voiceless,” during which it conjured a heavenly constellation of sound.

Drumming, strobe lights and the descent of three black and white panels (by David Kim) depicting sculptural forms suggestive of worn canes or other weapons, announced the arrival of Portner’s “For All Its Fury.”

At the center of the work is the technically powerful and superbly expressive dancer, Rena Butler, who becomes witness to a most grotesque escalation of violence, bondage and torture, involving canes, and plastic bags used like hoods, and an endless sequence in which the dancers are entangled in a sort of cat’s cradle of stretchy bands. Man’s inhumanity to man? OK, got it. But it goes on far beyond the point of choreographic interest or emotional caring. And then, in a final section, which feels tacked on and shapeless, there is a kind of return to human connection. (Most of the spoken words in the piece were essentially inaudible.)

In addition to the riveting Butler, the dancers (costumed in mushroom brown tunics) included the petite, intense Kellie Epperheimer, Andrew Murdock, Connie Shiau, Elliot Hammans, Florian Lochner, Alysia Johnson and Black. And Jim French’s dramatic lighting is effective throughout the evening.

Again, the primary reason to catch this program is to watch and listen to Third Coast Percussion in action. Both they and the Hubbard Street dancers deserve far more interesting choreography.


Reaching for the Light: A Review of Hubbard Street Dance Fall Series

September 28, 2018
by Sharon Hoyer

Those seeking light hearted diversion from our present moment, turn elsewhere. For their Fall Series, Chicago’s leading contemporary dance company commissioned works—which unfolded as one evening-length collaboration—from young, emerging choreographers around themes of the physical and political environment. The resulting theater was potent, urgent and, with opening night falling on a particularly emotionally turbulent day in the news cycle, highly topical.

The collaboration included an extraordinary performance of compositions by Devonté Hynes from Third Coast Percussion, who, from a row of xylophones, gongs, bells and bowls flanking the stage, poured a ceaseless river of sound through the Harris Theater from well before the lights came up to after the curtain fell. The scene opened on “There Was Nothing,” a vision of creation as imagined by Lil Buck and Jon Boogz, the creative partnership known as Movement Art Is. Boogz and Buck are street dancers by trade, their movement style an impossibly complex orchestration of simultaneous isolations and waves within a single body that teases the eye and defies the brain. Once again, the Hubbard Street dancers showcased their superhuman versatility, taking to the tremendously detailed and difficult movement language as if it were part of the regular Hubbard Street vocabulary. Spoken word by Robin Sanders played at intervals, narrating a tale of a fecund Mother Earth whose beloved creation grows selfish and destructive, taking us from the formation of continents to blueprints and business meetings in minutes. We see forests rise from a clump of four dancers, humankind evolve from ape in two steps across the stage, a moment in the garden of Eden in a single glance. Then, in the blink of an eye (in keeping with geologic time), on with the clothing, out with the cell phones, the knit brows and strife. Mankind—at least the segment of it clad in a suit—turns its back on the Earth to hunch angrily over a phone, but does look up to observe a row of protestors marching downstage. The piece ends with six dancers holding blank signs, upon which you may imagine your own statement.

With no break, Third Coast Percussion continued into “Perfectly Voiceless,” a roughly ten minute musical interlude that picked up the momentum of the first piece and carried it seamlessly into Emma Portner’s “For All Its Fury,” which opens with thunderous drums and lightening flashes. Mycologist Paul Stament’s book “Mycelium Running” provided inspiration for the piece, as does Sylvia Plath’s poem “Mushrooms,” an ode to a quiet, unstoppable power of those oppressed. Three painted banners hang vertically from the flies to the floor and seven dancers weave through them, poking out heads and limbs at various heights. One dancer remains in view at all times, the only one dressed in a costume that will not change through the three sections of the piece. The movements of the group of seven are anxious, scuttling; they are a hive mind with odd moments of fraction. A few commonplace props appear and reappear: a cane, a plastic bag, a glass bottle which causes much to do. Portner’s vision is at times surreal, at times uncomfortably and, if you’re willing to go there, deliciously weird. She does not shy away from troubling images, conflict and partner work that toes the line of violence. In the second section the group of seven have changed into luminescent white unitards and are bound together by a web of elastic. They pull against one another, taking a very long time to move from stage right to center, the struggle prolonged, repetitive; progress is incremental in the extreme. The plastic bag periodically goes over a head and I, too, felt suffocated at moments in “Fury.” There was little space to breathe; it’s as though Portner wanted to include everything possible, to cram each moment with as many urgent ideas as possible, to make us feel the heaviness of the moment through abundance.

After the intertwined dancers break their elastic bands, there is a brief interlude between the solo dancer in constant costume and two of the percussionists; the stage empties except for these three, who walk slowly, ringing handbells in a tentative evocation. In the final section, the dancers, freed from their bonds, explode into broad, sweeping movements, clad in a variety of earth tones. They finish upstage, reaching upward, toward the light, and a painted backdrop of a giant mushroom.

Mycelium as Metaphor: A Preview of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s “Season 41 Fall Series” at the Harris

September 24, 2018
by Alyssa Motter

We are thrilled to be working again with the brilliant artists of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, performing live for their Fall Series September 27, 29 + 30 at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. We have been planning this collaboration for almost 5 years! Check out this preview to learn more about the choreographers’ inspirations for the show and the messages they want to share. Click here to purchase tickets for the Chicago shows – but don’t worry if you don’t live here: the show will be touring nationally all season! Check our event schedule or our Facebook page to find the concerts near you.

Contemporary dance is categorically difficult to define. While the term broadly refers to dance occurring in the later half of the twentieth century, there is not a singular definition that encompasses the complex web of global forms, cross-disciplinary influences and historical contexts that drive the field forward as a whole. Described as a “functional catchall” by Moriah Evans, editor of Movement Research Performance Journal, the field of contemporary dance defies any sort of simple classification and is instead better conceptualized as a fungus. Yes, a fungus. The mycelium of a fungus, specifically, which is a sprawling network of subterranean, interconnected filaments from which nutrients are drawn. Made of living fibers, no point of origin, no central locus, contemporary dance, just like mycelium, does not start from anywhere or end anywhere, it simply grows from everywhere.

This seemingly random reference makes perfect sense in the context of Hubbard Street’s Fall Series, which is a composite of interwoven movement styles from across the expansive mycelial web that is contemporary dance. The evening, curated by HSDC Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton, is organized in three distinctive parts bound together by the music of Grammy-award winning Third Coast Percussion and the shared theme of sustainability.

The series begins with a new work by Movement Art Is, comprised of Jon Boogz, a choreographer known for his unique use of popping, and jookin ambassador Lil Buck. Buck specializes in the Memphis-born urban dance style, jookin, which is characterized by gravity-defying footwork and rapid body sequencing that makes one appear to hover and undulate with supernatural ease. Working together, Buck and Boogz aim to promote positive social change through dance. Inspired by their firsthand account at the Standing Rock Dakota Access Pipeline protests, Buck and Boogz employ eight highly skilled Hubbard Street dancers to communicate about socio-environmental issues related to DAPL. “We hope this piece inspires people to appreciate the planet, appreciate our resources,” Boogz said in a recent interview, “and start to have a deeper rooted connection with Mother Earth again.”

As a musical interlude between the dances, Third Coast Percussion will perform a new composition by British composer Devonté Hynes (aka Blood Orange), who is lauded as one of the most influential and multifaceted voices in music. Hynes also composed the music for the latter work on the bill, a commission by internationally renowned choreographer and viral dance videomaker Emma Portner, who is the youngest women in documented history to have choreographed a musical in London’s West End.

Portner stretches the dexterity of eight dancers through her new work inspired by the bio processes of mycelium outlined in Paul Stamets’ book “Mycelium Running,” which is summarized in a TED Talk he gave in 2008. In the piece, the costumes, designed by Hogan McLaughlin, are integral to the choreography literally and figuratively. Bound together by strands of elastic mimicking mycelial filaments, the dancers’ movements create cascading interactions within the intertwined group as they morph and spread throughout the stage. Emblematic of mycelium and the field of contemporary dance at large, in Portner’s piece, when one dancer moves, the entire group is set in motion.

Harris Theater for Music and Dance, 205 E. Randolph, (312)334-7777. Thursday, September 27 at 7:30pm, Saturday, September 29 at 8:00pm and Sunday, September 30 at 3:00pm. $25-$110. Tickets:

Seán Curran Company and Third Coast Percussion at UAB’s Alys Stephens Center Oct. 5

September 13, 2018
by Shannon Thomason

Seán Curran Company will opens its 20th anniversary season with its debut performance with Third Coast Percussion at the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.

For the performance, Curran and nine exceptional dancers look back at the company’s history, reimagining its hallmark “Abstract Concrete” from 2000, and look forward, continuing their investigation into human connections, relationships and universal truths with the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the Alys Stephens Center, “Everywhere All the Time.” The program includes live music by Grammy Award-winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion, who performed at the ASC in March 2018.

An “Inside the Arts” pre-performance talk is at 7 p.m. The performance is at 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5. Tickets are $25, with $10 student tickets. Call 205-975-2787 or click here for tickets.

Percussion music has permeated Curran’s spirited, postmodern work. Its inherent rhythm serves as the beating heart of the robust “Abstract Concrete.” First performed at Central Park SummerStage in 2000, the work will be reimagined with original music by Third Coast Percussion and ensemble member David Skidmore. Mark Randall’s striking, timeless black and white visual design reveals unconventional couplings as Curran’s choreography seeks again and again to answer the question of how we define ourselves: who dances with whom; who pairs off; and who is left alone.

Delving deeper into these themes and excavating the primordial nature of percussion music, “Everywhere All the Time” contemplates the essential yet conflicted relationship of humans with the world. In increasingly polarized and tumultuous times, we are at once more interconnected and more solitary, on the verge of spiraling into collective loneliness. “Everywhere All the Time” includes music by celebrated Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy; clear tubing stretched from the musicians’ mouths to the head of the drums creates tension to stretch and change the sounds of percussion instruments in his innovative composition. Music is akin to weather – bombastic moments of thunder punctuate a sustained soundscape, acting as metaphor for an internal storm of emotions raging fitfully below the surface. Quiet moments – droplets, eddies – take on heightened meaning; a quartet flows across the stage recalling an ocean wave, as regular yet as visually and sonically arresting as the tides.

Seán Curran Company, which was founded in 1997, has presented 27 premieres and toured to more than 65 venues in the United States, France, Germany, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Turkmenistan. The company’s dancers are Elizabeth Coker, co-artistic director; David Gonsler, Jin Ju Song-Begin, Dwayne Brown, Maurice Ivy Dowell, Mariel Harris, Jacoby Pruitt and Lauren Kravitz, with guest artists Rebecca Arends and Evan Copeland.

For more than 10 years, Third Coast Percussion has forged a unique path in the musical landscape with virtuosic, energetic performances that celebrate the extraordinary depth and breadth of musical possibilities in the world of percussion.