The Athenaeum, 401 East Michigan Street. Performance runs:
Aug. 19-22, 6:30 p.m., on the mainstage; Happy Hour 5:00-6:00 p.m.; tickets
DK at The Athenaeum zizzles. The heat's up on stage while
the audience is in air-conditioned comfort experiencing a world-wide tour
through dance set to songs across diverse cultures and time periods.
In "Frere Jacques," David Hochoy creates a cinematic feel
with a blackout between ten emotion-laden songs by Jacques Brel, who moved to
Paris from Brussels in 1953 to launch his cabaret circuit career. Brel's songs
resonated then with survivors of two world wars who wanted a planet where love
could be the operative four-letter word. The songs are equally embraced now by
those of us who are tired of greed driving us into yet another marathon where
most of us must dance endlessly to the tune played by a few. Hochoy bases his
mime-driven choreography on the musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and
Living in Paris which originally opened
off-Broadway in 1968, was made into a film in 1975 and was revived off-Broadway
in 2006, each time to critical acclaim.
Hochoy creates an arc between the opening "Marathon" with
its summary of 20th century world events and the closing "If We Only Have Love"
with its vision for a future: "If we only have love/We can melt all the
guns/And then give the new world/To our daughters and sons."
Hochoy choreographs for the company of ten to move
sensuously, aggressively, submissively, assertively to Brel's evocative music
while expressing the lyrics through body language and constantly changing
groupings. Everything is at a high pitch — reality and delusion set in
with hopefulness skirting the edges and always seeking a way in. We are seeing
and feeling multiple layerings, at times glaring, at time mystical.
Liberty Harris particularly arrests attention with superb
shawl work to show the depth of intensity in "Marieke" with its commentary on
love and loss in the allegory of"The Flanders sun." Throughout this piece, Hochoy pays particular
attention to the upper body, arms and hands and position of the shoulders and
the head. "Marathon" begins earth-bound; for the succeeding segments the
movement progresses ever higher and faster, hitting fever pitch with "Carousel"
and reaching as if to outer space toward "the sun and the stars" at the close
of the piece. In "Frere Jacques," emotions run the gamut.
The second act takes a 360-degree turn with "Food of Love."
Based upon the"love sick" Duke
Orsino in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night,
whose opening line is:
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
Hochoy's delightful, non-stop worldwide romp across seven
love songs counters — even mocks — Orsino's self-indulgent pouting.
As in "Frere Jacques," the drama is in relationships Hochoy creates between the
music, lyrics and the dancers as the flow softens with an emphasis on fabric
floating with lifts, jumps and tumbling. Whimsy is in the air for recognizable
folk dancing. Once again, (this piece is a decade-old) four male dancers stop
the show with their macho rendition of "Womba Loma." Bravo to Brandon Comer,
Timothy June, George Salinas and Zach Young for their bravura.
Experiencing these pieces at The Athenaeum is delightful.
Thanks as well to the rest of troupe who equally sparkled in their solo moments
and in excellent corps work: Brittany Edwards, Jillian Goodwin, Mariel
Greenlee, Kenoth Shane Patton and Caitlin Swihart.Lighting by Laura Glover and costumes by Cheryl Sparks and
Lydia Tanji are noteworthy, as always.