The program title hints that turning one's back on social and artistic conventions is liberating, and the consequences are likely to be better than expected. "Barefoot Renegades" — people who go unshod after turning away from something that once commanded their loyalty.
David Hochoy's new "Les Noces" delivered on that positive promise in its preview performance Thursday night at Indiana Repertory Theatre. It was supported by the three older pieces that preceded it. Nothing dark in mood or crabbed in gesture intruded on the scene, but the works before intermission nonetheless declared that, contrary to what Tolstoy said about families, all happy dances are not alike.
Hochoy's setting of the rough, exuberant score Igor Stravinsky subtitled "Russian Choreographic Scenes" swerves into contemporary relationship freedom and makes it clear that personal fulfillment is the outcome. Two male couples and three female couples progress from ambiguous partnerships and group games to tender unions. Embraces and circling about the implied center of their love confirm its power. The tensions are momentary, and the ritual element is celebratory. Stravinsky was looking back from the war to the lost life of his homeland, Russia, as he did so often during those years. For Hochoy, the scenario involves rather a looking forward, to the long-hoped-for acceptance of marriage equality.
The most impressive part of "Les Noces," featuring a glowing twilight look to the stage in the breathtaking design of Laura E. Glover, introduced a Celebrant standing behind the dancers. The episode prepared the audience for the calm radiance of the finale, when the couples enter majestically in translucent white robes and the previously excited music subsides tenderly as loving arms are raised. Without the Celebrant's entrance earlier as a foreshadowing, the last scene would have seemed abruptly sentimental.
It was thrilling to see the company in same-sex pairings. Longtime DK fans will be certainly impressed at the counterintuitive rightness of the Liberty-Harris-Gillian-Godwin duo.
As for the guest work "Nine," I was encouraged to stop trying to count anything by the choreographer himself. Brock Clawson said the title has to do with the expression "to be on Cloud Nine.' Many solid Hochoy fans probably enjoyed seeing a different style. Hochoy's choreography can take in fluid movement without pain, while retaining enough hallmarks of Martha Graham's angularity and thrusting to make Clawson's kind of lyricism quite a contrast.
Since the scenario of "Nine" involves lying down looking up to the sky it's a technical triumph to make something of the undancelike position of lying supine on the floor. But Clawson finds ways to keep reminding us of that posture while allowing the company, at 10 strong, plenty of latitude. He has a style less overt in aiming for results than Hochoy's, yet the relative calm of how "Nine" proceeds will hardly make anyone antsy. That hopeful restlessness you can feel to your heart's content as you think about how many more people have to work at marriage than used to as you take in the world premiere of "Les Noces."