Friday, May 15, 2015

Catching the 'Next Wave' at IRT as Dance Kaleidoscope concludes 2014-15 season

David Hochoy's personal imprint on Dance Kaleidoscope is practically synonymous with the company over the past two dozen seasons, but of course it doesn't disappear when he turns over a program to other choreographers.

If you attend "The Next Wave" this weekend on the main stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre, you will appreciate the adaptability and fitness of the troupe to four different styles, as expressed by Lucy Bowen McCauley, Stephanie Martinez, Brock Clawson, and Kiesha Lalama. The dancers' adeptness has been honed by Hochoy's meticulous training and his own artistic range.

Two years ago, Clawson charmed DK audiences with "Nine," a work that was daring in an odd way, in that it made a dance out of looking at clouds (hence the title, from the joy of being "on Cloud Nine"). That idyllic pastime is best carried out, as nearly everyone remembers, by lying supine — not a conventional dance posture. Clawson showed a gift for giving ordinary life, even the part of it not movement-oriented, a thrilling dance dimension.

'Lake Effect Snow': Self-realization over both space and time.
That's what he accomplishes, with an even more resonant theme, in "Lake Effect Snow," which received its world premiere at Thursday's preview performance of "The Next Wave." A "narrative of one man's journey through love," as Clawson describes it, "Lake Effect Snow" is a subtle portrait of a gay man's tentative steps toward realizing his identity.

The daring element in this work is to have the central character (danced by Noah Trulock) poised between passivity and activity. We are meant to see the young man as taking in impressions of his surroundings and the opportunities for human connection available to him. The work proceeds by a series of spotlighted episodes and blackouts.

The lights (designed by Laura E. Glover) go up on new scenes, some of them tableau-like, that both isolate and link the character,  through a tentative embrace or two, a brief swirl of movement, and suggestions of inertness — as if the way forward were constantly under examination. Small gestures are repeated in larger contexts, the way significant memories tend to expand and contract in our minds. "Lake Effect Snow" is lovely to think about; there are impressive dances that don't inspire much reflection, but this one does. And the thoughts it generates don't have to be deep ones to stay with you.

'Catapult': The ensemble draws upon solo expression.
The four works contrasted brilliantly. Also on the second half and a world premiere: Kiesha Lalama's "Catapult." Another full-company exposition, "Catapult" is a constantly pulsating celebration of energy. An ensemble showcase, it features brief solos in which dancers seem to be ejected from the group — not being cast out, but bursting with fresh inspiration. The title's allusion to an ancient rock-flinging weapon is thus given a more positive spin. What is flung outward are expressions of vitality — unthinking, impulsive, caught up in the moment. The choreography calls for the dancers as a group to twitch and bounce while intently watching the solo turns; offstage moments are brief, as if nobody can stand to wait before contributing further to the pounding group momentum.

The concert opens with "Tableaux de Provence," an Indiana premiere of Lucy Bowen McCauley's work in tribute to the gracefulness and simple pleasures of southeastern France. Setting five movements of a work for saxophone and piano, the Indianapolis-raised McCauley has fashioned an elegant "chamber" work. With four women and two men in variable partnerships, and drawing on balletic postures and movement, she finds precise embodiments for Paule Maurice's music, particularly its elegance, wit and rhythmic adroitness. The upright carriage of the dancers, the rounded shapes defined by their uplifted arms, bespoke an emotionally warm formality.

Solos by Jillian Godwin (right foreground) bookend 'Taking Watch.'
More agonized achievement of community came through in "Taking Watch," an Indiana premiere by Stephanie Martinez. Opening and closing with intricate solos by Jillian Godwin, this work unfolded with an agonized progress toward community. Alternation of  closed-in and open stances to the development worked toward the idealism of the choreographer's program note.

Dancers in ensemble often had their backs to the audience, but the gist of "Taking Watch" seemed to be that outward-directed, angular, thrusting movements tending to suggest conflict, even alienation, can be resolved into a hard-won unity. Some of the soloistic episodes, such as one with Mariel Greenlee and three DK men, emphasized the forging of mutual trust. The wide spaces taken in by outstretched arms and legs, expanded literally by leaps and bounds, evoked Leonardo da Vinci's "Vitruvian Man," the emblematic drawing of human anatomical proportions held within a circle. Framing circles of inclusion added up to the reassurance at the heart of "Taking Watch."

[Photo credit: Crowe's Eye Photography]

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