I Got Gershwin
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Jessica L . Johnson in Dance Kaleidoscope's 'I Got Gerswin'
George Gershwin is at the top of his game with Dance Kaleidoscope in their production of I Got Gershwin. Ninety years ago, the 21-year-old piano music "plugger" penned his first hit song, "Swanee," and his first of 14 continuous seasons of Broadway musicals. David Hochoy's choreography captures the essence of Gershwin's lasting appeal by hooking into the always surprising mix of primitive and sophisticated.
Gershwin's innate gift is melody that sounds good in a constantly growing library of arrangements. Hochoy adds to, and extends, the canon by transcribing the music to yet another instrument - the body - and to other sensory levels - sight and space. Just as Gershwin exploded into a new genre by applying jazz idioms to concert works, Hochoy here is implanting the poignancy of rests within brisk, cleanly articulated movement. Indeed, if Gershwin's notes could dance of their own volition, they'd be this energized, sensitive, 11-member company that embodies the music's subtext of tensions and drama with underpinnings of longing.
Enhanced by Laura E. Glover's perfectly matched lighting design and costumes by Cheryl Sparks and guest designer Lydia Tanji, Thursday evening's performance proved as exciting as watching the rushes and blocks between goal posts. And while "Rhapsody in Blue" properly denotes the Colts' season, let it be noted also that DK is equally ready for the records with two enchanting world premieres and two equally outstanding repeats in I Got Gershwin.
Opening with "Three Preludes," which Jascha Heifetz transcribed for violin and piano, Hochoy hones and stretches the strengths of the five dancers to the playfulness of the piece, truly ending on a high note. Originating as an Oregon Shakespeare Festival work, it transfers well in its larger-than-life stylized jazz, picture-posing waltz and sultry Latin.
With "Fascinatin' Rhythm," which premiered here in 2000, we again experience the freedom and openness in role-and-gender reversals that makes Hochoy's take on Gershwin so much fun to warm up to. In "Oh, Lady Be Good," Kenoth Shane Patton and Melanie Schreiber partner for the best in very good settings to five other songs.
With Catherine Bringerud at the piano here, as in the divinely delivered premiere of "Gershwin in Love," the feel of live music is simply to be lusted for all the time. It helps, of course, that when tenor Steven Stolen interprets Gershwin it's as if the sun and moon are in conjunction, in an ethereal cosmic embrace of luminosity and shadow, brightness and foreboding. The dancers spin out of his voice, heart and gut in this six-song cycle artfully arranged by Rick Walters. The choreographic delight is Hochoy extrapolating a whole new way of experiencing "I Got Rhythm" from the interpretation in the previous "Fascinatin' Rhythm."
"Rhapsody in Blue" may well grow into another DK signature work. The dancers' multilayered engagement with music, space, relationships and audience represents a continuous arc of colors and form, always starting from and coming back to the derivative positions. With the addition of classically trained dancers, DK can be expected to sustain its troupe of standout individual dancers who can equally function as a corps de danse.
For flawless technical support, credit sound designer Michael Lamirand and costume/wardrobe manager Michele Hankins.
DK also includes Liberty Harris, Jessica L. Johnson, H. Bradley Cope, George Salinas, Jillian Godwin, Mariel Greenlee, Matthew Sparks, Chris Faesi and Tanner Hronek.
At the Jan. 8 performance, Faesi seamlessly recreated the injured Tanner Hronek's roles.