Saturday, October 26, 2013

Dance Kaleidoscope opens new season with a troupe classic, a guest choreographer's work and a guest company

Programming has always been a strength of David Hochoy's artistic direction of Dance Kaleidoscope, the Indianapolis contemporary-dance troupe that opened its 42nd season Friday at Indiana Repertory
Theatre. "New Dimensions" as a title lacks a certain sizzle, but that can't be said about the complementary energy of the three works offered under that rubric this weekend.

Butler University's dance program got a showcase position in between works by guest choreographer Christopher Dolder and Hochoy, whose "IconoGlass" (1998)  has been  revived for the current company.

Cynthia Pratt's new piece for her Butler Ballet dancers is a brooding rhapsody of dark lyricism called "The Whole Against  the Sky." The title comes from an observation of German poet Rainer Maria Rilke about how people overcome inevitable distances that separate them and can eventually see "the other whole against the sky."

At first, to low, rumbling music by Valgeir Sigurdsson, the undulating patterns of a large group of dancers confine them to an essential sameness (underscored by the costuming of both men and women in long, diaphanous skirts), with a few iconic figures lifted up high above the group.

The lighting (by Laura Glover) is low-key but somehow oppressive; there is a busy, shifting symmetry among the 18 dancers, and identity is depicted as a difficult formative process. This yields to more focused indications of individuality in a brief episode for seven women, and finally to a dignified finale spotlighting two couples, but with a strikingly ambivalent last scene as the floor-bound company writhes diagonally offstage.

Timothy June and Mariel Greenlee in "Riverboy."
The earnest abstractness and deliberate pace of "The Whole Against the Sky" made a startling contrast to the opening work, Christopher Dolder's buoyant, nostalgic "Riverboy." A former colleague of Hochoy's in the Martha Graham Dance Company, Dolder in this work takes a relaxed approach to the art. The choreography uses lots of non-dance movement — slouching, foot-tapping, showoffy trotting, fist-pumping runs — to accent the evocation of a carefree childhood pastime on a remote river near the small California town where Dolder grew up.

Bulking large (literally) in the choreography are nine inner tubes, some of them dwarfing the dancers. They play variations upon the lightly and illicitly inebriated sport of tubing down the Feather River. The tubes are bounced on, hugged, butt-worn, bumped against neighbors, bounded through and upon, and swung in wide circles.

Dolder celebrates horsing around as well as the tug of first love and its inevitable disappointments (handily symbolized by deflated tubes). The mood is joyful and rich in casual fun, with  sneaker-footed dancers clad in jeans and short-sleeve shirts. As seen Friday night, "Riverboy" pulsed with exuberance and daring, a triumphant import for DK.

What's most attractive about "IconoGlass" is its absorbing inspiration in the variety of Philip Glass's music from the formal and ritualistic ("Satyagraha"),  through its more lulling moods and ending with the pop side of the composer, extroverted and beat-driven. Glass has described his music not as minimalism, the  most common label applied to it, but as "repetitive structures."

This telling phrase can be seen as a template for Hochoy's choreography, which sometimes moves dancers as if on a fast-paced conveyor belt. They shift from one static pattern to another, but since no pattern ever holds sway for long, the troupe goes through an immense variety of movement. And the style varies from curved and flowing to frenetic and sharply angular, creating further difficulty for the dancers. The ensemble came through with flying colors, costumed and lit with an imagination to match their virtuosity and the choreography to which it is applied.

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