Thank you Clowes, Dance Kaleidoscope, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Museum of Art and all the sponsors involved for the gift of this amazing program. Live dance is most alive with live music. It’s electrifying to feel the ISO players and the DK dancers breathing together as they unfold nuances intended by composers and extended on multiple levels through visual and spatial elements. Every aspect of this production sparkled with freshness, immediacy and zest despite music that’s a century or more old and choreography (and costumes) from 14 and 16 years ago.
The program opened with “Girl at the Piano: Recording Sound” choreographed by David Hochoy to Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Op.43, with a story inspired by Theodore Roszak’s painting of the same name, in the IMA’s permanent contemporary collection.
With guest pianist Alessio Bax on stage at a grand piano, the curtain opened to the attention-getting opening bars and a full stage representation of Roszak’s oil on canvas. With conductor Sean Newhouse merging stage and pit, the orchestra and pianist introduced thematic strains of the Rhapsody as the scrim lifted to a 3-D setting replicating the painting’s color, shape and form. Dancer Jillian Godwin, as “The Girl,” immediately carried us into Hochoy’s fabricated story of a family and friends, and the recording of piano music. It’s a brilliant conceit that we rightly savored as each DK dancer delivered a character acting in accordance to the spirit and letter of the music, plumbing, with the ISO players, Rachmaninoff’s emerging subtlety overarching the long and broad melodies imbued with melancholy. At the first intermission it seemed right to sit and reflect.
Hochoy’s “Scheherazade,” with costumes by Barry Doss (reconstructed by Cheryl Sparks and Michele Hankins) and lighting by Laura Glover, mirrors the brilliance and pageantry of Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s clear and colorful orchestration, while it deviates from the composer’s four movements’ stories. Instead, within the framework a child dreamer (fetchingly portrayed by Nia Owens) engrossed in a book, Hochoy takes us into the mind of Scheherazade, arranging and rearranging the dancers into enchanting tales. With Liberty Harris as the title character, in this production Hochoy layers credibility to the legendary Scheherazade being as widely read and broadly educated as she is beautiful. Her theme music is a sensually winding melody for violin solo with harp that floats with self-assurance and grace above the counterpoint domineering theme representing King Shahryar, whose wont had been to bed a virgin for one night and behead her in the morning. One thousand and one nights and three sons later, Scheherazade not only entertained but wisely educated the king in morality and kindness.
Hochoy is at home with choreography influenced by Martha Graham. Here he expands Graham’s classic movement and pictures to fill the Clowes Hall stage, having premiered the work in 1992 on the more intimate Indiana Repertory Theatre main stage. Reflecting on that production, this reviewer wondered, as did other patrons, what might be going on in the mind of retired DK dancer Roberta Wong in the audience, watching her role unfolding with another dancer.
Hochoy said he has waited 16 years to present this work with a full orchestra. It was worth the wait. The DK company was splendid throughout, clearly savoring the ISO in the pit.