The best of Chicago dance and the best of Chicago comedy joined together on the Harris Theater stage this June for the second installment of The Art of Falling, a collaboration between Hubbard Street Dance and The Second City. The show demonstrates the versatility and brilliance of these two Chicago establishments, weaving their mastery into one work of art.
While some of the show changed in its second year to accommodate current events and pop culture—there’s a Trump stapler and mention of Bill Cosby—the show holds on to what made it such a hit in the first place; The Art of Falling is high energy, quick witted, beautifully danced, and tugs on our heartstrings while making us laugh out loud.
The show opens with a tongue in cheek video poking fun at both the dancers and comedians and the decision for these two cultural icons of Chicago to work together. Hubbard Street Dance’s Artistic Director Glenn Edgerton takes the stage, dancing a few steps of his own before being joined by the cast.
The show revolves around a few key stories, the main one involving the commitment-phobe, habitual over-thinker, and worrier Richard, who falls for a charismatic dancer Gerry.
When Richard visits Gerry at rehearsal, there is a particular funny scene breaking down various dance styles and explaining that contemporary dance is basically just 15 steps repeated over and over.
We also get a glimpse into the life of Richard’s grandmother, who conducts a clever scene during which dancers improvise movement based on answers to questions she poses to audience members.
A second story line follows a new temp Kate on her first day of work and the crush she develops on her peer. This storyline is where the creativity of the two groups shines brightest. Dancers comprise the office accouterments, from the coat rack, to the desks, to the vending machine, to a controversial artwork of black Jesus.
A dream sequence takes Kate to a magical carnival, where cast members create a merry-go-round, human staircase Kate gracefully ascends, and a romantic boat ride.
The confusion and commotion of starting a new job as a clueless temp in a fast-paced office is perfectly captured by an intricate desk chair ballet, the culmination of Kate’s story.
The third story follows a lonely man who seeks approval and distance at his job as a comedian who performs at business conferences. He finds himself on a plane seated next to a chatty woman seeking revenge on her cheating husband. Their plane is destined for disaster, but the scenes account for some of the most tender of the show. The dancers move gracefully as the two explore themes of love and commitment, trust and loyalty—all while keep the audience laughing.
While expressing emotion on stage in nothing new to Hubbard Street dancers, straight-faced comedy in dance is likely new territory. Their typical performances may call for anguish or jubilation, but rarely poker faces when confronting absurdity, such as that perfectly executed by Alicia Delgadillo during a piece in which she plays a blow up doll.
There is one scene devoted solely to dance, a spellbinding, breathtaking work of beauty by Robyn Mineko Williams to open Act 2. It showcases what you expect from her choreography and the Hubbard Street dancers; it’s seamless, floating, entrancing, and stirring.
The show is a perfect marriage of comedy and dance, finding the perfect balance of laughter with heart. The emotional moments are filled with humor, making them more poignant, as they fully capture the pure joy The Art of Falling exudes. The show covers serious topics—relationships, anxieties, love, and uncertainty—but does it with a laugh and a perfectly pointed toe. When Richard finally lets down his guard and reveals his love for Gerry, he does it by executing the 15 steps of contemporary dance ridiculed earlier in the show.
While performers demonstrate mastery of their craft, and while they poke fun at each other, there is an underlying mutual respect and appreciation. Through song, dance, and comedy all artfully executed, we learn that sometimes falling happens, but what matters is rising to the occasion and getting back up. And even more important than that is the ones supporting you and helping you get back on your feet.