Last Thursday night I attended the preview night of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Love Is…” program at the Indiana Repertory Theatre in downtown Indianapolis. It was a wonderfully cathartic evening, artistically admirable in and of itself, but also coincidentally a perfect fit for my euphoric, spring-time mood and my emotional and aesthetic needs at the time. I left feeling washed and ready.
The next day I still felt physically and emotionally uplifted by the experience. I think this was because the program had incorporated not only strong, graceful dancing and other visuals but also spoken words, sung words, and explicit, well-communicated storytelling in the movements of the dancers (as opposed to abstract emotions.) Most of it was easy for me to relate to, and yet there was also content that stretched and inspired me.
The program included four pieces, all of which were new to me.
The first piece, choreographed by Cynthia Pratt and first performed in 2001, was called “Love Letter.” It was actually several short pieces tied together, a bundle of spoken and danced poems detailing various aspects of romantic love – things like jealousy and boundary-setting and self-esteem and desire and pleasure and stalking and yearning and more – through specific people’s experiences. The dancers unexpectedly and humorously (!) enriched and interpreted the letter-poems that Sam Shepard had written and Diane Timmerman had skillfully read aloud for a recording. There was also pre-recorded music by Thomas Newman, Christopher Young, Ennio Morricone, and Chas Smith.
Some of the letters were performed by couples, or triads, or groups of couples…but not all. One of my favorites, in fact, was performed by a tiny blond woman (Melanie Schreiber? I’m sorry: I don’t know any of the dancers in person and of course I didn’t take time while the dancing was going on to try to match the people on the stage with the headshots in the paper program*) who danced all by herself. I don’t remember there being any words to the first part of her dance, but she was clearly dancing about being in love with life even though she was not partnered up.
“Ah, good,” I thought. “This is me now.” I had been relating to the other letters based on past experiences, but just as I was beginning to feel wistful and left out, along came this delightful segment.
In the second part of her dance, the accompanying poem-letter was about how she had changed everything about herself to fit her partner…whom she had not met yet! The poem was hilarious; the dancer made it even more so.
*Update: The dancer was actually Jillian Godwin. Thanks, David Hochoy, for the info!
All ten members of the Company – Brandon Comer, Jillian Godwin, Mariel Greenlee, Liberty Harris, Timothy June, Kenoth Shane Patton, George Salinas, Caitlin Swihart, Melanie Schreiber, and Noah Trulock – deftly and deliciously helped to bring this collection of love letters to life.
The dancers all wore some combination of purple and lavender, velvety textured and filmy, fabric. Their costumes taken all together reminded me of the ribbons that people (me!) used to use to tie paper love letters together. (Costumes by Cheryl Sparks.)
The lighting design, by Laura Glover, included some crinkly texture and lots of candy box red – a perfect, affectionate accompaniment.
After a pause, the curtain came up again for a second piece, performed by just two athletic men, Timothy June and Noah Trulock. “For Jose’” was choreographed by David Hochoy and first performed in 2001 but the performance I saw was the Indiana premiere.
No costumer was given for this piece in my program. The two men wore simple white trousers. Lighting designer Laura Glover dappled ruddy-orange light over their bare chests at first and later bathed them in Grecian blue and white while they sensuously danced first the ups and downs of their friendship and then their love for each other.
Yes, their love. They actually kissed only at the end, and even then it was a sweet farewell kiss rather than a passionate one, but throughout the dance they looked at each other and moved with each other and took turns lifting each other in ways that suggested volumes about their shared intimacy and trust.
I hadn’t been expecting this at all, and I confess that at first this piece made me feel lonely and left out, even a little betrayed.
But then I thought that maybe that is how a gay person feels every time he is expected to relate to mainstream, heterosexual love stories.
And then, as I kept watching the beautiful dancing and listening to the heart-wrenching voice of Barbara Cook singing “This Nearly Was Mine” (music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II), I remembered that love is love and, as Rita Mae Brown says, love multiplies.
At the end, when the two lovers were forced to separate, I felt that the loss of love through death has got to be one of the most universally painful experiences there is. I realized I had stopped feeling jealous and “just” felt sympathy.
After another pause (and lots of whispering in the audience), the curtain rose a third time for the world premiere of a piece choreographed by Nicholas Owens, called “Love Key.” Nick said later, during the intermission question-and-answer period, that this piece was inspired by Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.”
I understood the R&J inspiration from the dancers’ visual storytelling, but what I loved about this new piece was that its storytelling was (for me, anyway) more about (or at least also about) the right and left side of a person’s brain, and how important it is to appreciate and integrate both sides, i.e. – to love one’s whole self. In the dance, one side was not better than the other. They were just different. One group of dancers moved in very round, twirling, individualized ways. The other group moved in very angular, matched formations. At first, they did not get along at all, but when one from each group fell in love with each other, the others eventually got over the fact that they were different, and started appreciating each other’s strengths. Eventually everyone (except the one guy who just would not give up his need to control and conform and therefore ended up banished and lonely) could dance together in harmony.
The right-brain-left-brain-integration theme was reflected in Cheryl Sparks’ costume design and Laura Glover’s lighting design as well. Some of the dancers wore silky, flowing garb, while the others wore stiff, military-esque uniforms, but all of them shared the same cerebral blue palette and danced in the same airy-liquidy light.
The piece incorporates music by Stewart Copeland and James Newton Howard, and Music from the Vatican. The dancers for this performance were Brandon Comer, Mariel Greenlee, Noah Trulock, Jillian Godwin, Liberty Harris, Timothy June, George Salinas, Caitlin Swihart, and Melanie Schreiber.
The fourth and final piece was a collection of “Love Songs” sung by tenor Steven Stolen, accompanied by Catherine Bringerud on the piano, and choreographed by David Hochoy.
This piece was first in performed in 1995. During the intermission, someone asked David how he and the dancers go about reviving a piece. David said that they watch the videos that they have of their earlier performances but no video captures all of the details. For those they rely on the dancers’ and choreographer’s memories, which is what everyone had to do for everything before there were videos. Dancers and choreographers passed dances down in person (like stories in the oral tradition! I love this!) Sometimes even with videos, the dancers’ memories differ, in which case the dancers have spirited discussions in the studio.
“Love Songs” includes music & lyrics by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, Frank Loesser, Paul McCartney and John Lennon, George and Ira Gershwin, and Harold Arlen, with arrangements by Rick Walters. Here are the names of the songs with their dancers:
- “I Have Dreamed” – Liberty Harris, Kenoth Shane Patton
- “I’ve Never Been in Love Before” – Kenoth Shane Patton, Mariel Greenlee
- “If I Fell” – Mariel Greenlee, Jillian Godwin, Timothy June
- “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” – Jillian Godwin, George Salinas
- “Over the Rainbow” – George Salinas, Melanie Schreiber
Steven and the pianist were in full view at the back of the stage. I always feel rich any time I get to hear Steven Stolen sing live. Hearing him interpret songs live while the DK dancers added still more layers of live interpretation in the same space was a chakra-tuning experience. I cried in a cleansing way all the way through it, even when I was laughing at the funny parts.
The singing and piano playing were quiet enough that I could hear the squeak of the dancers’ bare feet as they twisted and leaped across the stage. I could hear the dancers breathing, too. At first this was distracting, but then it added yet another layer of meaning to the already powerful piece: love is gorgeous, but it is also real and it takes effort.
The last song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” has always struck me as a very lonely song, but part of it was danced here with infectious joy over the arrival at that “place that I heard of once in a lullaby.”
At the end of the song, the female dancer danced alone, and the final look on her face – well, drat: I am crying again, remembering. The look on her face at the end of the dance (and of her life?) was a powerful, and yes, healing blend of fear, hope, and strength.
I loved this show.
Dance Kaleidoscope announced its 2010/2011 season at “Love Is…” This will be artistic director David Hochoy’s 20th season with the company. He said at intermission that he never expected to be in Indiana this long. I’m glad he stayed!
Here is the new season:
- Fall 2010: “The Body Electric”
- January 2011: “The Elvis Project”
- March 2011: “Passionate Puccini”
- Spring 2011: “Mad for Musicals”
The 2010 Summer performance and venue are still to be announced, but before that is “Pictures at an Exhibition,” which will run May 20-23, 2010 at the Indiana Repertory Theatre.
For more information about the above shows and other Kaleidoscope events, please visit www.dancekal.org.
Conversations with David
Also of interest from my “Love Is…” program: a world premiere performance of Israel’s Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company 2 will take place here in Indianapolis at the Arthur M. Glick JCC (6701 Hoover Road) from 7-8:30pm on Thursday, March 18, 2010. This event is free and but to guarantee a seat, RSVP to 317-726-5450 or IsraelPartnership@JFGI.org.
Dance Kaleidoscope’s artistic director, David Hochoy, will interview members of the Israeli company on Wednesday, March 17 from 6-7:30 pm at the Indiana Repertory Theatre’s Cabaret (3rd floor.) There will be complimentary refreshments. Please RSVP for this “Conversations with David” event to email@example.com or 317-940-8459.
‘See you at the theatres!
Hope Baugh – www.IndyTheatreHabit.com
Also follow @IndyTheatre on Twitter.com for brief, day-of-show observations.