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DK's ‘Dancing Alone Together’ is altogether brilliant

This virtual gala encourages donations to the DK Crisis Relief Fund

  • Updated
  • 4 min to read
DK's ‘Dancing Alone Together’ is altogether brilliant

On a variety of backdrops, ranging from open fields to balconies looking out at an Indy skyline, Dance Kaleidoscope dancers offered up a virtual feast of performances in a prerecorded gala titled Dancing Alone Together that debuted June 27, hosted by WFYI’s Jill Ditmire.

The YouTube video of their performance is on view through July 5. 

Like other performing arts organizations unable to generate revenue through ticket sales or otherwise during COVID-19, DK is appealing directly to its patrons for financial support during this time of crisis, and has set up the DK Crisis Relief Fund. You can go to DanceKal.org to donate. 

Appropriately opening as a kaleidoscope of on-stage images from past performances, edited by Chris Lingner, the program segued from these snatches showcasing luxurious costumes and lighting, to a wood deck with an expansive Indy skyline to experience Manuel Valdes’ choreography to “Island Remix” by Phillip Glass and Peter Broderick. “Bound to One” gives Marie Khuns and Cody Miley a feel of flight — always poised for take off as they circle each other  in swoops and pulls. Though “gated,” freedom is at the fulcrum; look up and feel the sky.

Actress Jen Johansen intoned Shakespeare’s Sonnets 19, 15, and 18. As a seeming requiem,  my mind stores linking lines as I catch imperatives: “…do what’er thou wilt/swift-footed Time—despite thy wrong/My love shall in my verse ever live young…as truth and beauty shall together thrive/ …thy eternal summer shall not fade/So long as men can breathe and eyes can see,/ So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.” 

As I watched Emily Franks move with Aaron Steinberg, to her choreography in a room sans furniture, with rug rolled up, and photographic imagery of outdoors edited in-between the dancing, “Love will find the way” took on layers of intent, and will need mulling over. The mystery of the Sonnets continues to ask ’to whom/for whom/from whom’ ?

We’re voyeurs in Doug Dilling’s space as he morphs into dapper-mode with a languorous rendition of “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  Sarah Taylor hits a triple with her choreography, photo-collage and dancing on a grassy knoll.

Next, we’re in a parking lot where,  between two spaces under the shade of a fulsome maple tree, Paige Robinson embodies Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Suite no. 1 in G Major, Prelude,” played by cellist Teagan Robinson,  sitting on a nearby stone bench. “Sweeping Light,” choreographed by Paige, takes on textures of time, space, meditation, and a bit of daring to cross the line into another space—or not.

“New Dawn”, choreographed by Stuart Coleman, zooms us in and out of a dozen spaces, as he remotely rehearses dancers Paige Robinson, Jillian Godwin, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, Emily Dyson, Marie Kuhns, Sarah Taylor, Emily Franks, Aaron Steinberg, and Cody Miley, who then perform within a collage of images edited by Coleman, with aid from Franks and Doug Lewis.  

The work gains coherency through  “Indodana” (sung in Xhosa, a language of South Africa and Zimbabwe), arranged by Michael Barrett & Ralf Schmitt. The imagery lures us into a “Where’s Waldo” conceit while the joyful abandon is dance videography at a tipping point. Everyone singularly zooms on, as in corps mode, though each is distanced in sites all over Indianapolis. I applauded the editing along with the dancing.

Jillian Godwin is the epitome of movement risk-taking as the senior member of the DK company. With “Lean on Me,” Godwin shows another aspect of her ease,  stepping out as a chanteuse to deliver Bill Withers’ 1980s anthem — “We can extend a helping hand”  — amidst imagery culled from DK’s performance of “A Home For All.”  The virtual program notes, “Special Thanks to Nick Poust, Kimberly Martin, Amanda Stover, Crowe's Eye Photography and Zach Young.”

Two works choreographed by artistic director David Hochoy bring us into the realm of capturing live for archival purposes, now repurposed as remember when,’ whereas what preceded is newly minted specifically for a technological delivery system. 

“Kling no Klakka” with lighting by Laura E. Glover and costume by Cheryl Sparks, features Emily Dyson in this traditional Norwegian song, originally filmed in live performance at the Indiana Repertory Theatre. Introducing herself within the virtual performance context, Dyson alludes to the production elements that engage an audience, and why archival sharing has currency, not only for audiences, but for herself as a dancer now observing and evaluating, and recalling an audience member’s reaction with its particular poignancy.

“Carmina Burana, Angelic Section,” music by Carl Orff, lighting by Laura E. Glover, costumes by Barry Doss, and filmed at Indiana Repertory Theatre, showcases iconic DK. Its power translates in the privacy of my homespace via a small screen. As a visual rainbow, the metaphor of this segment hits home.

In reaching out following ‘Watching,” I emailed Hochoy: ‘I’m looking at this and seeing a new form of architecture within a new medium of delivery; what now are the horizons DK audience members need to scan as they 'watch' from their homes?’

“Art is always a product of its time,” offered Hochoy in the email exchange. “This is a time of upheaval for everyone, and we are responding to it with the resources that we have.”

And in response to my note, “Martha Graham brought a new dimension to 'Contemporary'; here I'm experiencing beyond 'contemporary'  — something more like coincident  verging on concomitant; making something real and concrete at a moment of unreal and fragile …” 

Hochoy wrote, “ In a strange way, we are able to embody the word contemporary in the truest sense, belonging to or occurring in the present. Our dancer/artists, trained in theatrical dance techniques from the past are challenged to utilize their skills, expertise and knowledge of other forms of communication that are able to speak to today's audiences.”

He continued: “The pandemic disruption and social justice displacements that are occurring in our society now are changing the way we live, think and breathe. DK is changing with them simply because we are an organic performing arts organization that has always responded to current events. We will, and must find new and eloquent ways to "inspire, educate and entertain" our constituencies and make our own artist statements that help us all navigate a new normalcy.”

When I asked Paul Hansen to comment on his expanded role from marketing director, to being credited as producer, he first pointed out that everyone was acquiring new skills while sequestering, particularly noting,  “During this time, Emily Franks has been teaching herself a new skill, thus earning multiple editing credits throughout.”

Eventually he turned to talking about the DK dancers and how they are doing during the pandemic, “They all have shared of themselves to help create content when we have no performances, even while they're mourning their lives in the dance studio and on stage. They are not only talented artists, they're good people."

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