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Dance Kaleidoscope's Latest Production Journeys from Broadway to the City of Light

by Rita Kohn
January 3, 2020
Indiana Repertory Theatre
140 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 635-5252
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
With the world premiere of Dance Kaleidoscope's La Vie on Broadway, January 2 at Indiana Repertory Theatre we experience re-imagined songs from eight musicals old and new including Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton. The arc brings DK Manuel Valdes to centerstage as an everyman seeking a place, a validity of being, in the presence of the company. Opening with “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’," the homage is to Agnes de Mille as a composite of her high stepping Rodeo and her depth of understanding the relationship of dance and drama that Rodgers and Hammerstein were introducing in the 1940s as a new standard of story and character development that replaced the then slapdash comedy with "wow" dance routines sans a coherent storyline.

Within this same sensibility, this new Dance Kaleidoscope (DK) work with choreography by DK company member Stuart Coleman and artistic director David Hochoy, advanced the concept of plumbing the emotional core within a musical number to connect us as audience with the dimensionality of the character within the drama. Hochoy has always filled the DK roster with dancers who understand dramatic action. This new company member complement advances the evolution of the company over the past three decades of Hochoy’s tenure.

By a show of hands during the intermission Q-A session, a portion of the audience said they recently attended the Broadway in Indianapolis presentation of Hamilton: An American Musical. True to DK’s mantra of ‘kaleidoscope,’ here at the IRT Upperstage, we witnessed a rearrangement of the show’s original choreography so we could feel a different emotionality within "The Room Where it Happens." This is when I wish for what regularly happens at sports events — a re-play of the action. I wanted to see and feel this moment again.

Emily Dyson and Aaron Steinberg infused balletic sensibility into "Without You" from Jonathan Larson’s Rent. It provided a hand on heart moment, that continued into "Goodbye Until Tomorrow," from The Last Five Years by Jason Robert Brown. The choreography here, with Natalie Clevenger, Emily Franks, Jillian Godwin and Paige Robinson showed layers of the lyrics that moved backward and forward over five years-wanting and not getting hopes, regrets; anticipation, finality. This piece takes us far deeper than has the definitive The Three Faces of Eve - remembering back to the musical, now being in this configuration with the four DK dancers, the punch in my gut still hurts a day later. What don’t we foresee when we say "I do"?

The power escalated with Kieran King taking us into Les Misérables' "Bring Him Home" and leaving me with a tear-soaked handkerchief.

The Company journeyed us through a montage of "The Flesh Failures/Eyes Look Your Last/Let the Sun Shine In," followed by Marie Kuhns in a solo of "Burn" that propelled us into "You Will Be Found," with Manuel Valdes again as the point person for the company. Hopefulness flowed over us to close Act One.

A lot to chew on during intermission, with a brief interlude to view (in the lobby) Marianne Glick’s splendid paintings emulating the Broadway musicals to which she was listening as she painted. I will have to return to thoroughly feel their impact.

Act Two returned us to David Hochoy’s PIAF: A Celebration, that premiered in 2011, and has resurfaced in several other DK programs since. Once again, Hochoy tailored the poignancy of singer Édith Piaf’s autobiographical songs onto the bodies of the DK dancers. In his program notes, Hochoy tells us, "I used Édith Piaf as source material for a vocabulary of movement that is at times gritty, elegant, romantic and nostalgic. The piece has two sections, the first dealing with Piaf's harsh upbringing and addictions, the second a more rose colored view of her world. The whole sweeps the viewer along on a journey that is moving and inspirational."

That says it all.

Performances continue through January 12. For tickets: dancekal.org/features/concerts/la-vie-on-broadway-january-2-12.
Emily Dyson and Aaron Steinberg in 'Without You' from 'La Vie on Broadway.'

Emily Dyson and Aaron Steinberg in "Without You" from "La Vie on Broadway."

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography

Paige Robinson in 'PIAF: A Celebration'

Paige Robinson in "PIAF: A Celebration"

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography

The company in 'PIAF: A Celebration'.

The company in "PIAF: A Celebration".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography

The company in 'PIAF: A Celebration'.

The company in "PIAF: A Celebration".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography

The company in 'La Vie on Broadway.'

The company in "La Vie on Broadway."

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography

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