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Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University
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Notes on and a review of: See the Music, Hear the Dance

by Rita Kohn
June 12, 2019
Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University
610 W 46th Street
Indianapolis, IN 46208
(317) 940-2787
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
“The collaboration was incredibly inspiring for all of us involved.”

Dance Kaleidoscope artistic director David Hochoy’s summation a joint collaboration by DK, the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra and the American Pianists Association in See the Music, Hear the Dance, May 17-19 echoed what those of us in the seats at the Schrott Center for the Arts carried from a program that stretched emotional and intellectual boundaries for dancers, players and audience members.

Yet Hochoy recognized, “There was much compromise that had to be considered on all parts.”

Ditto for audience. For those accustomed to shutting their eyes to concentrate on listening, it was a jolt to be also expected to watch. And for those watching, suddenly having diverse sets of bodies to view was a distraction.

As with many organizations, audience accommodation is required when they are taken out of comfort zones. Classical music, jazz and contemporary dance don’t necessarily attract the same attendees.

“The collaboration between our three organizations began with conversations between David (Hochoy) and me about 18 months ago,” offered Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra music director Matthew Kraemer, by way of delineating their collective thoughtful approach in trying to steer clear of cliche with regard to the program's main work, Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue". “Over this period, the subsequent planning and work of all the dancers and musicians led us to this apex.”

Gershwin’s musical portrait of New York City was framed as a journey where events pile up as people intermingle and multiple sounds vie for attention. Tempos varied widely braiding jazz and ragtime with classical for a new do of rhythmic invention, melodic inspiration, harmonic pairings. It was not meant to be dance-centric, straight up symphony or even easy solos. Four different piano styles wended through. It was orchestrated chaos and the audience loved it.

“All of us will have to be in tune with each other,” agreed 2017 APA Classical Fellow Drew Petersen. “I’m not going to be alone playing with the ICO. I’ll have DK dancers moving right along with me.”

While Petersen played "Rhapsody in Blue" once before with an orchestra, this was a different scenario. Even though he has absorbed the specialness of texture, rhythm, harmony inherent in composition, he noted, “I will have to be clearer, more precise” to accommodate the choreography.

Beyond what Petersen pinpointed as, “How we can discover together” to bring the music and dance into a new dimension of collaboration, there are challenges with the stage space.

“For us,” says Hochoy, “the lessening of the stage depth from our usual 30 feet to 20 feet was a big deal! Traffic patterns had to be practiced and in some cases changed in 'Rhapsody in Blue' in order to make it work.”

Hochoy’s original choreography for "Rhapsody in Blue premiered in 2006. Indianapolis Monthly pitched the program with this lead: “The historic space of the Indiana Repertory Theatre, built in 1927 during the height of America’s jazz age, is the perfect backdrop for "I Got Gershwin" (Jan. 5-8), a tribute to George Gershwin. The show features the world premiere of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Rhapsody in Blue.”

Reviewing the revival in 2014, also at the Circle Theatre in downtown Indianapolis, I wrote, “Liberty Harris' seductive shimmy twinned to the clarinet's opening glissando to the breath-taking one-arm sustained lift, hold and turn by Timothy June and Harris, to the full company's jettisoning outburst at the close, Hochoy's storytelling in 'Rhapsody' highlighted the nuances of every phrase. Yet the work balanced on the fulcrum of Jillian Godwin's understanding of the space between notes. Watching her illuminate the brilliance of the piano interlude with her body in mid-flight, her mind in mixed signals, as a bird in cross-winds, was to be in the company of genius.”

[To see my January 13, 2014 NUVO review click here]

Five years later, I was witnessing Marielle Greenly essaying Liberty Harris’ role, with Timothy June again defining that opening moment until the dynamism of the ensemble takes over and WOW sweeps into rhapsody.

George Gershwin is quoted describing the work “as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our metropolitan madness.”

Hochoy’s vocabulary translates these intentions, and DK's Greenlee, June, Stuart Coleman, Phillip Crawshaw, Emily Dyson, Jillian Godwin, Royal Hartwig, Aleska Lukasiewicz, Cody Miley, Aaron Steinberg and Missy Thompson deliver in sync with the ICO players and Petersen. Cheryl Sparks’ costumes remain fresh and Laura E. Glover’s lighting was luscious.

Also on See the Music, Hear the Dance was Hochoy’s "Ancient Airs and Dances" (2011) and the ICO players rendered William Grant Still’s "Serenade" to its fullest, with flowing Romantic era harmonies. Bravo to the ICO for bringing attention to works not often heard, and certainly to this composer.

The program closed with the world premiere of Hochoy’s delightful depiction of Maurice Ravel’s "Ma mère l'Oye" (Mother Goose). Beautifully mimed, and with movement to show the dimensionality of the characters interacting in the five stories, this work was engaging on all levels. The ICO players shared a zestful approach to storytelling of beloved tales with DK dancers taking on specific roles. Paige Robinson was a commanding Storyteller, bringing us into five scenarios: Charles Perrault’s depiction of the prelude to "Sleeping Beauty" by the full company, was followed by "Adventures of Little Tom Thumb" compellingly portrayed by Manuel Valdes; Madame d’Aulnoy’s "Little Ugly Girl, Empress of the Pagodas" unfolded with aplomb by Jillian Godwin and Stuart Coleman; de Beaumont’s "Beauty and the Beast" with Mariel Greenlee and Timothy June created a world of emotions leading to that tender kiss of affirmation and transformation taking place in real time; and from the canon of "Sleeping Beauty" worldwide, The Fairy Garden brings us into the awakening of Sleeping Beauty, taking us back to the opening Pavane, for a satisfying cohesiveness. Throughout, the company of dancers enchanted and bewitched and revealed each sequence emerging from cloth squares; the stories spin out of and around each other as a community of happenings.

Emily Franks has joined the DK company as a new apprentice; extra dancers were Royal Hartwig, and Aaron Steinberg appearing courtesy of Indianapolis Ballet.

The extraordinary costumes are by Cheryl Sparks, Barry Doss and Lydia Tanji.

Summing up, David Hochoy commented, “For me it was a special treat to see the choreography come to life with live music!”
Dance Kaleidoscope's Emily Dyson and Cody Miley.

Dance Kaleidoscope's Emily Dyson and Cody Miley.

Photo © & courtesy of Drew Endicott


Matthew Kraemer, Music Director, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

Matthew Kraemer, Music Director, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.

Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown

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