Sophisticated exuberance

 

Song and Dance

Dance Kaleidoscope

Indiana Repertory Theatre

Jan 4-7

In Dance Kaleidoscope’s Song and Dance, shimmering innocence informed reprisals of Ol’ King Cole (1997) and Skin Walkers (1999) and brought a new layer of meaning to the music of Duke Ellington, effected through the premiere of Sophisticated Ellington. Artistic director David Hochoy, bestowing benevolent trust upon this company of mostly young, mainly new dancers, is reaping the benefits of their energy and sense of wonderment as they first mine the meanings of songs from their grandparents’ generation and then join with jazz violinist Cathy Morris to intuit on-the-spot interpretations to the “new age Celtic” music by T.H. Gillespie and L.E. McCullough.

Dance memory has a way of getting imbedded just enough to awaken the effect of the time before. The Cole piece now seems far more playful, less artful, with George Salinas setting the pace with his beguiling slyness just short of, “Look at what I can do and bet you can’t guess what I’ll do next.” Surprise, in fact, is what distinguishes this paean to a superb interpreter of emotions. The showstopper was the all-male foray into a jazzy “What is This Thing Called Love.”

With Sophisticated Ellington, Hochoy’s choreography is stylized, yet with a sense of freedom — something akin to an e.e. cummings poem. A muddy sound system somewhat spoiled the fullness of intent, yet one quickly became aware of how Kenoth Shane Patton set the pace with his meticulous minimalism writ large. His supple partnering brings to Ellington his rightful due as a master of matters of the heart. The entire company picked up on Ellington’s undercurrent of whimsy and playfulness, bending body language around subtext. Certainly sophisticated in attire, yet what’s simmering underneath is another story, and this troupe tells it — as achingly honest as only people willing to risk all are able to do.

Risk carried through to Skin Walkers with its challenge for dancers to listen to Cathy Morris and Morris to watch the dancers, each abandoning anticipation to simply be in the moment as it comes upon them. Loosely draped around the myth of shape changers, this work supplied an interesting coda to the Cole and Ellington works — how indeed does love, the main subject of these two early 20th century artists, bend us out of shape, shape us up?

Lighting by Laura E. Glover brimmed with ever-changing hues and brightness correctly matching the company’s approach to the subject matter. Cheryl Sparks’ costumes beautifully flowed with the bodies and the lighting. All in all, Song and Dance was a provocative inward-from-the-soul program as opposed to a flashy over-layering of production values that a less thoughtful presentation might have given us.

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