Hubbard Street Dance
“Relevé, balancé, ront de jambe, and gran plié!” No, this is not an excerpt from a French text book or a crazy homeless man yelling at me on the street; it’s the sequence of ballet steps rattled off by my instructor at Hubbard Street Dance. She expected the rest of my thirty or so fellow pupils and I to understand and execute this sequence while balanced at a wooden bar screwed into a mirror-lined wall of a studio at their location on Hubbard Street in River North. Apparently, they’ve added a few moves since I took dance back in preschool. Ballet doesn’t just consist of first, second, third, fourth, and fifth position? Who’d a thunk it?
The rest of the class managed to perform the string of unpronounceable dance moves, while I desperately (and very ungracefully) attempted to copy the girl in front of me, who, lucky for me, seemed to know what she was doing. Despite my thoroughly comical performance, no one seemed to be paying any attention to my lack of poise. Every so often, the instructor would come over and help me correct my form, but beyond that, I was never called out for being the girl with two left feet and zero balance.
And so I (foolishly?) returned the following week. The second time around went slightly better, as I was somewhat more familiar with the foreign commands being thrown my way. I suppose I got overly confident after this, because I decided to venture out of my comfort zone and give hip hop a try. Never again will I pride myself on my booty shaking abilities while out dancing at a bar.
So why subject myself to week after week of embarrassment and self-deprecation? Because it’s a blast! And this is exactly why Hubbard Street Dance and the Lou Conte Studio is a gift to Chicago. Not only does it allow professional dancers and choreographers to present their art to the city, it also gives the public a chance to let loose and try their hand at something they would otherwise be unable to do: just dance!
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago sprung into existence in 1974 as an offshoot of the Lou Conte Dance Studio, founded, of course, by Lou Conte. The current studio now consists of four branches: the main Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (HSDC) company, Hubbard Street 2 (HS2), the Lou Conte Dance Studio (LCDS), and its education and community programs arm. The main HSDC Company comprises of 17 dancers, and is considered one of the country’s most elite and innovative contemporary dance companies. As Trae Turner, a hip hop instructor who has been teaching at Hubbard for nearly five years, says, “Hubbard Street is the Harvard of dance studios.” While HSDC is known primarily for its contemporary dance, it represents a variety of different choreography styles.
Hubbard Street 2 was created to acclimate dancers ages 17-24 to the strenuous but rewarding life of a performer in a contemporary dance company. Many of the dancers who started in HS2 have gone on to join the main HSDC Company, as well as other renowned dance companies worldwide. Throughout the past twenty years, HSDC has also worked to build partnerships with local schools in order to promote increased awareness of the arts and the critical and abstract thinking that inevitably accompanies all artistic endeavors.
The fourth branch, the Lou Conte Dance Studio, is the branch which I have to thank for my exhilarating, albeit embarrassing, return to dance. LCDS offers a multitude of weekly classes in ballet, hip hop, jazz, modern, tap, African, and even yoga and Pilates. These classes are taught at levels ranging from basic (my level!) to professional; workshops and master classes are also offered. The classes, which can be attended as often as you choose, are affordable, fun, and open to anyone who wants to give dance a try, regardless of age or prior experience. Be sure to check their website for information on upcoming performances and class schedules. Whether you want to sit back and enjoy a stunning performance or actually get in on the action yourself, Hubbard Street Dance Company is where it’s at!
Location: 1147 W. Jackson Blvd.