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Rita Kohn
Performance Reviews
Various Performance Dances
Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University
United States
Indianapolis, IN

Spotlight 2011 - a charity performance

by Rita Kohn
May 2, 2011
Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University
4602 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208
4 stars

This review was originally published in NUVO Newsweekly, Indianapolis, IN.

Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
Spotlight is like a year of holiday meals served at one sitting without a jot of family tension and dishes magically cleared out of sight. It's the leftovers, nevertheless, to be dealt with. AIDS won't magically disappear. While prevention is the best cure, it takes continuous education, vigilance and treatment. And it takes standing up to elected officials who take away funding from the major source of health care for women and children. "This is no time to de-fund," declared Wayne Zink who, with Randy Deer, was the main sponsor for Spotlight 2011. "Use your power of citizenship to tell Gov. Daniels and all elected officials they need to restore funding to Planned Parenthood."

Zink's call for positive public action for the greater good echoed throughout with each of the 20 presenting companies choice of content, notably in the informative WFYI-produced video, the Children's Museum presentation of the story of Ryan White and the Indianapolis Civic Theatre's delivery of "Seasons of Love" from Rent. This rousing rally closed the program and sent us home appreciative of the gift of time during which we can choose to make the world a safer, healthier, kinder place.

The wealth of Spotlight is in the performers; the genius is in the programming with its ever-changing dynamics starting with the soothing opening by the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. After rushing to get to Clowes Hall and vying for the practical yet exotic silent auction baskets we grow a bit noisy as a capacity crowd. Seated in the darkened theatre we calmed down to the strings of Sibelius' Andante Festivo singing an alluring melody while the timpani exerted authority at a solemn pace. We leaned back, took a deep breath and readied ourselves for release from preoccupations and cell phones [though texting for some is too addictive to realize lighted screens are annoying in a darkened theatre].

Spotlight can be therapeutic as well as educational and entertaining—unexpectedly so with Actors Theatre of Indiana ribald "Cell Block Tango" from Kander and Ebb's Chicago. The in-your-face staging and choreography woke us up big time, with a cast of nine backed by a five-piece band showing why "He had it coming."

Actor Corey Morrow's excerpt from Hope is a Habit, D.E. Ison's script based on the life of Ryan White, detailed White's fight through Indiana's court system to allow him to attend public school. To live a normal life with AIDS has since become a way of life, yet overcoming public ignorance of the disease remains a constant challenge. This is the focus of the Children's Museum "The Power of Children: Making a Difference" gallery.

"Keep Holding On," Avril Lavigne's pop rock power ballad is the theme song for the film Eragon (2006), promising "You're not alone/ Together we stand / I'll be by your side, you know I'll take your hand…" The Shawnee High Madrigals [Springfield, Ohio] coupled choreography to the lyrics to underscore themes of love and loyalty.

Embracing the other side of choice, despair, Indianapolis Opera soprano Jacquelie Brecheen and mezzo Kristin Gornstein beautifully interpreted the aria "Ebben? Ne andrò lontana," from Catalani's opera La Wally. Countering the mood, Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra bassist David Murray and pianist Catherine Bringerud presented a brisk "Le Grand Tango" by Piazzolla.

Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre followed with a color-filled whirling excerpt from SALOME to music by Nicholas Lens featuring six of GHDT's dancers.

Phoenix Theatre's excerpt from The Zippers of Zoomerville or 200 Laps and a Lass provided poignant comic relief with a tight staging of Jack O' Hara and Tim Brickley's mini mockeretta's biting lyrics of how we spend our time. In contrast, the Indianapolis Children's Choir amplified Fantine's solo, "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables, and set us to wondering why "things goes wrong" in our lives.

Nicholas Owens Dance Company made its awaited debut with a world premiere work representative of Owens' emphasis on the power of individuals working together to overcome travail. This urgent underlying theme fuels forceful choreographic movement and dancers' alignment, marking Owens' signature high energy level of attack. With "Awaken" morphing into "Weather the Storm," the company of twelve stripped away their swirl of skirting as Bach did with composing a sacred oratorio expressing the ever-present immediacy of suffering according to St. John, baring oneself to the ever-changing forces of life. Lamentation makes way for action.

Doug Mellinger as Asia La Bouche of "The Ladies of Legends of Talbott Street" and three loose-limbered dancers miming Katy Perry's "Firework" closed Act One with glitz and glitter.

Brenda Williams and the Pride of Indy Jazz Ensemble opened Act II with "Chega De Sausade," considered to be the first Bossa nova song. Translated into English as "No More Blues," Williams transforms the concept of longing akin to homesickness into a rallying point for get up and get going, providing an apt segue to Dance Kaleidoscope's shift-changing fast-paced finale from Skin Walkers set on music by T.H. Gillespie and L.E. McCullough played live by Cathy Morris and Gillespie.

Jazz poet Tasha Jones enticed us into her "Tongue and Cheek" philosophy. Butler Ballet dancers Lindsay Moncrieff and Garrett Glassman brought us into their newfound love with a beautifully executed Adagio from Grand Pas de Deux from The Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Tong Wang to music by Tchaikovsky. Milicent Wright, representing Indiana Repertory Theatre, regaled us with a pithy family-centric excerpt from Neat by Charlayne Woodard. Indianapolis Men's Chorus' impeccable tone quality carried us into Simon's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."

Kenyetta Dance Company under the direction of Vanessa R. Owens, showed a snap-shot video of the company of six dancers in rehearsal before appearing on stage weaving through the philosophic lyrics of "Immortel Cheikh Anta Diop" by Les Nubians. With "Dance Like No One's Watching" the company concept of "community, collaboration and open hearts" underscored the principles of Spotlight as an inclusive event to raise money to stamp out a disease that is not exclusive.

Following "a Message from Wayne Zink," Meridian Song Project tenor Steven Stolen with pianist Gary Walters shared the philosophic "All The Way" [Van Heusen and Cahn] and "Our Love Is Here to Stay" [Ira Gershwin]. The evening closed with Indianapolis Civic Theatre inviting us into Jonathon Larson's cyclical "Seasons of Love."

Dozens off-stage contributed to the fast-paced smoothness of production. Interpreter Darren Chittick's clear articulation carried the words when the sound system faltered.

David Hochoy announced "$430,000 has been raised tonight" for the ongoing work of the Indiana AIDS Fund in support of treatment and prevention of HIV throughout Indiana. The glamour of the gala spurs the real work at home, on the streets, in the statehouse and council chamber.
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