Like in any other big city, Indy’s nonprofit arts organizations are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to engage audiences. This goes for both the dance companies and orchestras — organizations that occasionally finding themselves tag-teaming it.
Take for example the upcoming performance at the home venue of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Hilbert Circle Theatre. The concert A Night in Paris (Jan. 18-19), features the dancers of Dance Kaleidoscope and Expressenz to orchestra accompaniment under the direction of pops conductor Jack Everly.
Many other dance performances in the Circle City are set to recorded music. Not, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, that there’s anything wrong with that. But the exceptions are work noting.
Dance Kaleidoscope doesn’t just collaborate with the ISO. They collaborate with other groups as well, such as they did with the American Pianists Association (based in Indy) when DK dancers did their thing to the stylings of pianist Eric Zuber, playing Gershwin hits, in Oct. 2018.
Indianapolis Ballet, when they perform The Nutcracker on the Murat stage, perform to live musical accompaniment (the ISO in 2016 and the Indianapolis Ballet Orchestra in 2017 and 2018).
But when it comes to ballet, most would agree that it’s the quality of the dancing that matters more than the question of whether or not there’s live music accompaniment.
There’s no question about the quality of Indianapolis Ballet’s dancing, at least as far as the Balanchine Trust is concerned. This is the trust that zealously guards the legacy of New York City Ballet artistic director George Balanchine, and won’t let just any ballet company use their choreography.
There’s also the Ballet Theatre of Indiana. While this company may be scrappier than Indy Ballet, their performances are just as energetic and engaging. But it’s their urgency (as well as occasional sword and gun-play) that make their performances unique. Don’t believe me? Check out their annual Beer and Ballet Feb. 15 and 16 at the Athenaeum’s Basile Theatre.
And let’s not forget the Butler Ballet (at Butler University) consistently ranked as one of the top five dance programs in the U.S. which also stages performances throughout the school year.
The dance scene in Indy doesn’t just include ballet, of course. There’s the aforementioned Dance Kaleidoscope under the leadership of longtime artistic director David Hochoy, who certainly has an appreciation for avant-garde modern dance.
But he also knows where his audience is.
“The model I like to use is the kind of model the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra uses,” Hochoy told NUVO back in July. “They have a classical series and they have a pops series. And they know very well that the pops series is going to sell much better than the classical series. The pops series is actually what keeps them alive so they can do the classical.”
DK isn’t the only game in town when it comes to modern dance. If you’re into extravagant set and costume design and a strong narrative element, there’s Gregory Hancock Dance Theatre. Indy also has a plethora of smaller dance companies, including Kenyetta Dance Company and Phoenix Rising Dance Company now based in the Phoenix Theatre Cultural Centre.
There’s also the Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective which collaborated with No Exit Performance to produce the collaborative dance program Open Indy.
Open Indy’s culminating Nov. 2018 performance took place in the District Theatre, on Mass Ave., a storefront that was saved from bankruptcy by the Central Indiana Community Foundation now managed by IndyFringe.
The aforementioned is an example of how arts organizations, working in tandem with foundations— and each other—become more than just the sums of their parts.
There are other notable collaborations between performance organizations such as the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir which combined with the ISO to put on Handel’s Messiah, which they did in December 2018 at the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts.
Even longtime patrons of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra might not be aware that their Leonard Bernstein at 100 program this past October was a collaboration with the Indianapolis Sister Cities International Program and the city of Cologne, Germany.
Going international seems to be something of a trend for the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra.
Their upcoming performance East Meets West at the Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University (Jan 26, 2019) features the world's premier pipa virtuoso Wu Man, who is also a prominent ambassador of Chinese music.