Friday, December 5, 2014

Dance Kaleidoscope's holiday show draws on high points of popular entertainment as interpreted by David Hochoy and guest choreographers

"Broadway Meets Motown" is a title that suggests a contest of some kind, possibly a friendly one. Taking it in that spirit, I would have to judge Broadway the winner in Dance Kaleidoscope's current production.

As seen in a preview Thursday evening on Indiana Repertory Theatre's Upperstage, DK's two-part show recalls two popular pieces of the recent past. "There's No Business Like Show Business" and "Super Soul: Motown and More."
The anatomy of "Super Soul" was different, but its heart was in the right place.

In what way does the current program's "Best of  Super Soul" come up short?  Mainly in that it has the feeling of a patchwork quilt of tributes to the landmark Detroit record label and other hits by black performers in the 1970s, before popular music was subject to micromanaged marketing.

My recollection of the full show from January 2012 brings forward a production with more of an arc. It had a laudable unity, especially considering that "Super Soul: Motown and More" was the work of DK artistic director David Hochoy and two guest choreographers, Nicholas Owens and Cynthia Pratt.

Whether the current show is really "the best" of "Super Soul" is a question not worth engaging. What's important is that all of "Super Soul" seems the genuine article to me, and worth a full revival. Anthologies are inevitably unsatisfying when the selection process seems to segment something that originally felt unified and whole. (A side issue, but also disappointing, concerns the Upperstage's sound system, over which the music sounded unbalanced, with excessive stereo separation.)

At any rate, of this program's excerpts, only "Say a Little Prayer" seemed self-conscious and perhaps too studied Thursday night. Everything else came off with the pizazz and freshness I remember from nearly three years ago. The sexy comedy of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" was well-placed amid songs of innocent exuberance,  plus the dark moments of instability represented by "Trouble Man" and "Papa Was a Rolling Stone."

The ensemble was in fine form for the two Michael Jackson numbers that ended the show, "P.Y.T." and "A.B.C."  Representing the show's lyrical side, the inspired serial duets that make up "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" were sweet and elegant Thursday night, thanks to couples Jillian Godwin and Zach Young, Mariel Greenlee and Brandon Comer, and Caitlin Negron and Timothy June.

Thank goodness for "There's No Business Like Show Business," the first half of "Broadway Meets Motown." Hands down, this is a winner, brought back from October 2010.

I hardly know where to start, so I'll start with something small: No musical detail escapes David Hochoy's attention. The "fills" between phrases of "Drive a Person Crazy," whimsical enough in the music, are not ignored in the choreography. The female quartet — Emily Dyson, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, Caitlin Negron, and Missy Trulock — seemed inspired, and no wonder: The drollery rules on both the macro and the micro level.

Other highlights: a sublime duet to "Some Enchanted Evening" carried off with a great feeling for the long line by Negron and  June; Comer and Greenlee's sensitive filling out of the flawed interaction of the couple portrayed in Stephen Sondheim's "Send In the Clowns";  the company's spirited comic timing in "The Lonely Goatherd" from "The Sound of Music."

One of the rewards of art is to revisit a piece you remember fondly and being doubly rewarded, because the work is not only fully brought back but also seems to offer something so fresh it's as if you were making a first-time encounter. That's how I felt about Greenlee's searing solo to "Losing My Mind," displaying her as a technically pure dancer as well as an adept tragedienne.

And of course, there's the memorable dynamism and intensity — keyed to the Sondheim hero's growing self-awareness — of the final ensemble, "Being Alive."  The setting underlines Hochoy's dependable gift for achieving emotional parallelism in dance with a piece of music. This was shown as well in a more abstract piece, Bernstein's "Candide Overture," a curtain-raiser that kept something in reserve to make the music's whirlwind coda a full partner to a high-energy dance interpretation that never ran out of ideas, executed at breakneck speed.