Several people tell me the upcoming Dance Kaleidoscope show, Remembrances, is choreographer Brian Honigbaum's life's work — and they tell me this well before Brian does.
"I'm 40 years old now," says Honigbaum. "This is the dream I've had since I was 13. So, this really is my life's work."
To be fair, I talked with many people before Honigbaum, so he may have said if first. The point is — many parties are in agreement that this is his pivotal piece. And the phrase "life's work" is thrown around so often, that it seems to have lost some meaning. So, I will clarify: if you started a task at eight years old, encountered some obstacles, had to change directions, but in the end now have the chance to showcase this work exactly the way you wanted — 32 years later — that is what I mean by life's work. And that's what Brian Honigbaum has done.
Honigbaum is a former DK dancer and says that he was inspired to choreograph the ballet from his relationships with local Holocaust survivors Mike Vogel (deceased) and Agnes Vogel. The ballet, presented with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, is dedicated to the six million Jews and five million others who died in the Holocaust. The show will open with a shorter piece called iconoGlass.
Paul Hansen, marketing director of Dance Kaleidoscope, tells me Honigbaum and Remebrances is really a coming home story, too. "We received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and Brian's father has been a huge part of organizing the coalition that funded this piece, helped me bring it to Indianapolis," he says. This is huge for Honigbaum and huge for Indianapolis.
"I began dancing at 8," Honigbaum says. "Which is young for a guy. I'm Jewish and I was raised in Indianapolis. In the mid to late '80s my dance school's secretary, Agnes Vogel, used to yell at me for running in the halls, she was a little scary — we even used to call her The Enforcer. Very short, Hungarian, and in the end, we became so very close. I saw the numbers on her arm ... She hid nothing from me, told me the whole story — that the numbers were her identity in the concentration camps, and from that moment on, I understood the world was not always kind. The Holocaust was not discussed then, as openly it is now. This was pre-Schindler's List. And I know Agnes has seen the piece performed, but Michael has passed, sadly, before he could see."
"[He] was a former educator/lecturer on the Holocaust. So I spent the rest of my life learning, researching, and as soon as I could, I choreographed and created a piece to tell the story," says Honigbaum.
Brian has used that research in parts of the production itself.
"The Hall of Voices, in the DC Museum, where all of the survivors are talking, was beautiful," says Honigbaum. "I went to visit, and as I sit to listen, I heard Michael's voice. It was the most magnificent thing, hearing him ... So, I used these voices, in the beginning and between each section of the piece — raw and real stories from those who survived [courtesy of David Notowitz, National Center for Audio and Video Forensics]. This was an essential component of Remembrances. Absolutely essential."
The piece was first performed in Texas in October of 2001. This time around he has been able to hone in on the theatrical details.
"Pay particular attention to our lighting, the colors of the dancers' clothing — as I said, I was not going for abstract, but not literal, either," says Honigbaum. "No one is marching and leaping about in Nazi regalia. And Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation Cantor Janice Roger does an amazing job as well. Simply amazing. There are nuances, point-of-view changes, sounds, lights, subtle messages throughout the piece from our performers. But if anything about this piece can be considered abstract, it's what I refer to as the most intense part, where our performer [the lead dancer is Caitlin Negron] is not grounded anymore and she never touches the ground."
Honigbaum is not the only one who is proud of this work. David Hochoy about the beginning of the evening, before Remembrances takes the stage.
"The story of the Holocaust is being delivered in a way that it never has before," says Hochoy. "It's truly living art, the way the Greeks envisioned it. It is definitely an important part of humanity. Dancers are beautiful people, and they give their beauty to this piece, where it may be very difficult to think of beauty as it is related to such atrocity. I was very appreciative and proud of Brian's time with DK, what he has gone on to do, and now, for Remembrances, it really is a coming home story and we are welcoming him."
Where: Clowes Memorial Hall
Tickets: $25-40, Students $12.50-$20