Time stops—and starts, and stops and starts—in Robyn Mineko Williams's Fluence 

The choreographer's piece for nine dancers leads the bill at Hubbard Street’s "Fall Series."

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Fluence

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's Fluence

Quinn B Wharton

It's quite easy with dance, as with most everything else, to take time for granted. There's an unacknowledged principle that dancers, perfectly calibrated to the music and each other, operate effortlessly on some higher plane, though in actuality this notion is seriously confused. Driving against the illusion, Robyn Mineko Williams's Fluence is grounded in her fascination with the ways relationships between dancers accumulate and scatter over time. The material is stirringly magnetic and full of disjointed grace.

Williams uses contact to make the case that time is a force beyond human control. Dancers meet, ricochet off each other, maybe meet again later. Time itself seems to have been broken by a seismic event, or dancers are experiencing it on very different wavelengths: Breaks in the flow seem physically painful to the dancers. Shoulders flinch, leg muscles spasm. Smooth contortions are interrupted by little seizures. Moments of successful embrace are rare and brief; intimacy is replaced by a cold, cyborglike distance tinged with longing, as fingers touch temples or jut from the hips like antennae attempting telepathy, or trace hieroglyphics in space, or dancers clap hands in a permanent off-beat to intriguing effect.

In addition to Williams's new nonet, the program features three duets: Cloudless is by Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo; Swedish artist Mats Ek's critique of domestic life, Casa-Casi, is designed for a man, a woman, an oven, and a front door; and Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin's Passomezzo is a rough take on romance.

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