Dance Review: “Magical Mystery Tour” by Dance Kaleidoscope

Dance Kaleidoscope - Magical Mystery Tour - photo courtesy of Crowe’s Eye Photography

On Sunday, January 11, 2009, my friend Chris and I met at the Indiana Repertory Theatre downtown to see Dance Kaleidoscope’s presentation of “Magical Mystery Tour,” choreographed by David Hochoy.  This was a repeat of one of DK’s most adored pieces, but it was my first time to see DK at all.

It was a real treat.  Apparently, based on what I heard from the man sitting on the other side of me (I think his name was Ron) and from other long-time DK fans that I met during intermission, this was DK’s best performance yet – an intoxicating mix of veteran dancers and newcomers bringing new life to what was already an exciting program.  The exuberant costumes designed by Barry Doss also yielded additional delights in a second viewing, or so I was told.

It was all new to me except for the also-beloved Beatles songs that informed the dancers’ movements.  I was enthralled by all of it, including the glorious wit of the costumes and the mystical, jewel-like lighting design by Laura E. Glover.  I loved the shamanic, trance-like feel of the whole piece, and the touches of humor within it.

I really have no vocabulary for writing about it in a professional way.  I can only share with you some of what went through my mind and heart as I watched it.

At one point, for example, most of the company members were on their backs with their feet in the air, moving in a way that reminded me of sea anemones.  It was charming…and a little unnerving.

During intermission and later, over dinner, Chris and I both wondered how a choreographer communicates his vision to the dancers, and how they take notes on what he tells them.  Or do they not take written notes at all, but instead, record the dances directly into their brains via some sort of mysterious, wordless, full-body shorthand?

Either way, does the choreographer say to the dancers, “Okay, now at this point, be like sea anemones”?  And does he get down on his back himself and show them, or does he let them interpret “sea anemones” on their own?

But surely that is not enough, because each tentacle, each foot, in each moment, was up in the air, or bent down, with toes pointed or ankle flexed, in an aesthetically pleasing way in comparison to the rest of the foot-tentacles.  There had to be someone in charge of the visual as a whole.

But surely the choreographer does not go through the sea anemone scene note by note and tell each dancer when to move each foot up or down and at what pace, on which beat.

Or does he?  Man, that must take a long time!

We also wondered how a choreographer makes a record of his design so that he can refer to it a year later if he needs to, or so that someone else can refer to it in the future when the choreographer is not around.  There must be a way that does not involve video recording the finished dance, because there were dances long before there were video recordings.

Is there such a thing as a choreography script?  Do dancers talk about “blocking” the way actors do, using the lines of the song, and/or its musical beats, as anchors?

Is asking a dancer, “How do you learn all those steps?” as banal as asking an actor “How do you learn all those lines?”  Probably.  But I can’t help asking it.

Chris also observed that a dancer has to be very precise, very disciplined within his creative expression.  Not only is his partner depending on him to be in a certain place to catch her when she leaps, but everyone is depending on everyone else to go where they were assigned to go, and at the right, quick, moment, so that no one crashes into anyone else.  (Chris said it better than this, but you get the idea.)

Speaking of leaps, I loved all of them in “Magical Mystery Tour.”  Also the many graceful lifts and tosses.   I loved the architectural feeling of many of the dances.

Another thing that struck me about this particular company is its wealth of gorgeous men.  I am not being flip; I mean no disrespect.  It’s just that I have not seen a lot of dance and most of the dance productions that I have seen featured mostly women.  It was an unexpected pleasure to see lots of strong, beautiful, talented men in this production.

The lead male, Kenoth Shane Patton, danced a solo to “A Long and Winding Road” and reminded me, almost too clearly, of the times my own heart has been broken.  He made me feel like crying. 

But then he was joined by a beautiful woman (Liberty Harris) in a flowing, white dress, and their sensuously healing duet filled me with hope again.

Later in the show, apprentice Morgan Williams (you may remember that I met him during last summer’s Indy Fringe Festival) and Caitlin Swihart danced a suitably angsty yet lovely duet to “Sexy Sadie” that made me think about how challenging relationships can be. 

I also thought about how the fact that Williams has the long, powerful body of a basketball player – and yet also the subtle specificity of a dancer – brings something special and unexpected to any piece that he is in.  In this particular number he was juxtaposed with compact, supple Swihart, and that, too, was unexpected and pleasing.

In fact, each member of the company offers something special in terms of…I guess the word is “personality.”  It is more than a matter of appearance or style.  They all blend together very well, but no one becomes an anonymous chorus line dancer.   It makes for a feeling of richness.

The other male dancers include George Salinas, Tanner Hronek, Timothy June, and Zach Young.  The other female dancers include Jillian Godwin, Mariel Greenlee, Melissa Corning, and Carly Whitehead.

A few months ago, David Hochoy told me that he created this piece as a sort of coming-of-age story.  It is based on the cultural experiences of the 1960s but it has (I think) universal resonance. 

My only complaint about the show is that it was too short.  The two acts each went by in a breath.

However, each breath was deep and good.  I left feeling relaxed and joyful.

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Dance Kaleidoscope’s next show will be “America, the Modern” on March 26-29, 2009.  It will be offered during only one weekend, so mark your calendar and be sure you don’t blink or you’ll miss it.  For more information, please visit the DK website at http://www.dancekal.org/.

DK’ s 2008-2009 Season Sponsor is the Indianapolis Colts.  (I was flabbergasted when I read this, but hey, go Colts!)  “Magical Mystery Tour” was presented by Barnes & Thornburg, LLP and the Irwin Union Bank.  The artistic sponsor was the Christel DeHaan Family Foundation.  MMT was presented in association with the Indiana Repertory Theatre and with the support of the Arts Council of Indianapolis, the City of Indianapolis, and the Indiana Arts Commission.  I appreciate all of these groups!

Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com

2 thoughts on “Dance Review: “Magical Mystery Tour” by Dance Kaleidoscope”

  1. The other day I saw Kenyetta Dance at the Arts Garden. The young group are true professionals beyond their age. But interestingly after the show, I discussed the same questions you raised about choreography with the friend I attended with.

    It must be an interesting process. Obviously the choreographer has a vision, but it does seem at times it must require creative input from the dancer… of course my dance experience does not go beyond high school show choir, so I could not say.

  2. I took ballet lessons when I was a child, and I remember that the teacher used a special, French vocabulary – “plie'” and “arabesque” and so on – but I don’t remember how she taught us whole dances for our recitals.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and leaving a comment, Justin!

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