Chicago / Performance

The Whats and Whys of HUB AND SPOKE

Three days until the first performance of HUB AND SPOKE by The Dance Team at the Chicago Fringe Festival. Or maybe it’s over by now, and you saw it. And you might be the type of person wondering, “What should I expect from this show? Why should it interest me?” If you’d rather see the show ignorantly or simply don’t care, stop reading.

Before the costuming, music and historical setting were even considered, we began exploring the simple notion of causal determinism. It may be best summarized in R. Scott Bakker’s The Prince of Nothing Trilogy, that states what comes before determines what comes after. That everything is strictly decided by interrelated causes. Dance normally does not take kindly to this notion. Many dance philosophies insist that training, chance or choice governs their process. It may be due to the relative complexity of the human body and human behavior that we accept these simplified understandings. Training restricts a person to predictable behavior, chance reduces everything to uncorrelated events and choice closes its eyes to any explanation. However, the entire sum of science thus far has been unable to describe humans in completely deterministic terms

Still I wonder. We see a flag waving, and we know that the wind moves it. We see a deer grazing, and we know that hunger moves it. Yet when we see a person dancing, do we think the same? Is there not wind that moves this person?

I originally thought I’d end up with a piece about biomechanics: muscle innervation, skeletal fulcrums, angular momentum and those other things that literally move our limbs. Soon after working with this idea with The Dance Team, I realized that THEY were the wind (beneath my wings),  they were my hunger. Perhaps it is because humans belong to a social species, like most primates and many mammals, and their social interactions have become survival tools honed by millennia of evolution. However it came to be, the actions of other people will always be the most present and salient causes as to why my body is where is it and does what it does.

The title may sound familiar. Airports use a hub-and-spoke paradigm to traffic their complex network. The CTA lines form a spoked array outwards from downtown. In these systems, all routes converge at a point. Think how the actions of the people you know bottleneck into one of your actions. Causes in a deterministic system converge into a single outcome. At the heart of these metaphors lies the image of a wheel. As an axle turns, the hub drives each spoke, which spins an outer wheel. In the same way, a single action will drive a larger array of actions, connected by intermediate events. In considering both possibilities, we find that the past works both inwards and outwards: disparate events from the past will inform a single event in the present, and a single event can expand to affect many new events.

In order to stage this idea, we scoped it with a time, a place and characters. We want to know: How do strong personalities affect small communities? How does a community function during times of hardship? Does the central hub role shift between players, and what happens when they are removed? This dance references my childhood heavily, maybe even dramatizes it, as part of the process so I could learn more about what is moving me. And if I could convey the waving of drying linens, the stickiness of pine sap on your fingers, the thrill of hiding from a tornado, the taste of July strawberries, belly-sliding on a frozen lake or the shafts of light through an old barn, I would. Maybe next time.

To help summarize what to expect and put a philosophy into perspective, I pulled out my handy dandy Yvonne Rainer checklist.

Sorry, Yvonne. Don’t be too mad. No more talk – let’s dance.

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