Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Hubbard Street Invites Audiences To Take A More Intimate Look At The Company

From the Chicago Tribune last week.

Dancers are also archivists
By Lucia Mauro
Special to the Tribune

April 8, 2007

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago ensemble members Cheryl Mann and Tobin Del Cuore are well-known on-stage partners. But they've also carried their playful chemistry into unusual backstage roles as the modern troupe's archivists. What may sound like a stuffy job becomes creative magic in their unconventional hands.

More recently, in addition to their demanding dance schedules, Mann has honed her portrait-photography skills and Del Cuore his interest in videography. The pair collaborated on a video, "The Dancers of Hubbard Street," to be shown during the company's gala in conjunction with its spring engagement running Wednesday through April 22 at the Harris Theater in Millennium Park.

Set to a hip beat, with the dancers warmly poking fun at themselves, the video begins with close-ups of their faces that seem to morph through their tightly shut eyelashes. Mann and Del Cuore set up the personality-revealing shots. They include: Terence Marling chomping on a heart-shaped cookie, Sarah Cullen Fuller luxuriating on a bed of tabloids, Robyn Mineko Williams stabbing a chocolate layer cake with Hitchcockian relish, and Brian Enos wriggling around in a bright-orange unitard before changing into goth-inspired clothing.

"I've always, always loved photography," says Mann, 34. "I would spend a lot of time looking at our family photo albums, especially black-and-white photos of my mom, who was a rock singer in Vietnam."

While recovering from an injury in 1999, she picked up her Canon and began taking photos of the dancers from the wings. In 2001, Mann had her first gallery show at the Arts Club of Chicago and has since exhibited around the city. She specializes in candid portraits of dancers -- some in motion; others celebrating stillness, laughter or reflection. Most of her images line the walls of Hubbard Street's offices.

"I want to be able to get to know the people I'm photographing and make them comfortable," says Mann, who was born in Knoxville, Tenn. "It's not just me holding a camera and expecting them to look good. It's a collaboration."

When Mann convinced Del Cuore to buy a computer, he finally was able to expand his video-production talents. A native of Norway, Maine, he says he once considered a career in graphic arts and recalls making music videos and doing filmed newscasts at home as a child with his brother.

"I like the balance of giving people direction and surprising them when they think the camera isn't on," says Del Cuore, 28.

Del Cuore joined the main company in 2003 after two years in Hubbard Street 2. In a short period of time, he also has videotaped a series of "Travelogues" that track Hubbard Street on tour. They show the gamut of a dancer's life: the drudgery of living out of a suitcase, injury, close friendships and the joy of performing.

Mann joined the ensemble in 1997. Both she and Del Cuore have been consistently praised as dancers with exquisite technique, measured calm and ego-free confidence -- qualities they apply to their visual-art careers. As dancers, they bring a unique sensitivity to their subjects.

"My favorite shot is the last bow a dancer takes from the side of the stage when they leave the company," Mann says. "There's something special about documenting the close of a chapter in their lives."

View their tour diaries and a slide show of behind the scenes snapshots at Hubbard Street's website here.

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