Over the past 17 years, Dance Kaleidoscope's Liberty "Libby" Harris has danced in 75 productions and 90 different pieces. And we can add one more production to that total before she transitions from senior dancer to her new role as rehearsal director and education coordinator for the company. She'll make the move after Dance Kaleidoscope's season opener, Carmina Burana, on Oct. 23-26 at Indiana Repertory Theatre. It's a way of closing the circle, says Harris: "I started with Carmina Burana — and now after dancing in it six times, I can goodbye to the roles I have loved in every section of this piece, from beginning to end."
She first performed Carmina Burana in 1997, when she was a Butler student appearing as a guest dancer. In 1999, after two years with Charleston Ballet Theater of South Carolina, Harris returned to Indianapolis as the then-youngest DK company member. "I was the baby, being looked after and brought into the system of learning and moving up in the ranks," she says.
Carmina Burana, choreographed by DK artistic director David Hochoy to music by Carl Orff, has been a staple of DK's repertoire since its premiere in the 1994-95 season. Pivotal to the piece, based on a collection of poems and dramatic texts written during the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries, is the concept of Fortune as Empress of the World, balancing joy with sadness, life with death, an ever-turning wheel.
This seems to sum up Harris' point of view, as she talks about what her career at DK has meant to her.
"When I thought about retiring, I was overwhelmed by how fortunate I have been," she says. "You wake up every day and you want to make a better world. I can be happy because being part of DK has allowed me to be the best person I can be every day. Something I realized is that it's a two-way street. It's the people out there — the audience members who are willing to watch us do what we love doing everyday because for dancers it's not just on stage. It's the studio work that's exhilarating; the daily grind is where the magic starts and then you take that to the theatre to share."
"Libby has been indispensable to me for the past 14 seasons," sums up Hochoy, who has been Dance Kaleidoscope's artistic director since 1991. "Her outstanding grace, coordination, attack, elegance, commitment and musicality have all contributed to make many a DK performance truly unforgettable."
Harris hopes to continue helping Hochoy to realize his visions for the company. "I'll keep coming to class, and I hope to dance but not to the extent that I have, but I look forward to my new role," says Harris. "It's in my nature; it comes easy to me to take someone under my wing. I take pride in passing on DK's method. Every day is a passion for David's passion."
The company is "lucky to have retained Libby as rehearsal assistant because her presence in the studio is so valuable," says dancer Muriel Greenlee. She continues: "Libby absorbs movement faster than anyone I have ever danced with in my entire dancing career, in any location. Her kind, nurturing nature in everyday life permeates the group dances and makes her a natural leader and mentor for company members, as well as an incredible and sophisticated artist in her own right."
Dancer Caitlin Negron shares Greenlee's sentiments: "As a dancer her focus, ease on stage and flawless execution of any choreography has always inspired me. The wonderful thing about Libby, though, is that she also has a special ability to guide and teach with dazzling clarity."