Friday, October 21, 2016

Dance Kaleidoscope opens its season with 'Moving Sculptures'

"Pictures": Statuesque, with a soupcon of risk
The Dance Kaleidoscope program title really popped for me in the final appearance of the "Promenade" in Maurice Ravel's orchestration of Modest Mussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition." That's the episode where the recurrent theme of the suite is recast in a spooky minor mode. In David Hochoy's choreography, there is a stunning parade of couples — the men lifting the women — that moves slowly and individually across the Upper Stage of Indiana Repertory Theatre, where "Moving Sculptures" continues through Sunday.

The three-dimensionality of the paired dancers is vivid and monumental under Laura E. Glover's lighting. The movement is stately yet loaded with tension, because the lifts are formed so as to look precarious. They are actually more secure than they appear, given the troupe's usual professional aplomb.

Hochoy gives himself the freedom both to stay close to the pictures that inspired Mussorgsky and to move away from them. In this case, the sepulchral nature of this episode, following as it does in the spirit of "Catacombs," is set aside in favor of asserting the majesty of dance in fresh configurations, presented slowly enough to appreciate as a celebration of life (ironically the phrase often used today in ceremonies honoring the deceased).

First performed by the company in 2010, "Pictures at an Exhibition" was a pleasure to revisit. The visual splendor of the production couldn't have been more apt to the topic. The dancers enter slowly to the "Promenade" theme, looking around as if struck by amazement at the exhibition. DK  dancers can even walk in wonder and make you feel it.

The costumes of Cheryl Sparks, with their lavish touches of tattoo art, get a boost into fantasy in the pulse-pounding "Hut of Baba Yaga" miniature, when two caped male dancers acted as deft superheroes, with the rest of the company masked. The movement was spidery and full of sharp-angled turmoil, evoking the nightmarish realms of Hieronymus Bosch. Glover's lighting seemed to draw inspiration from both comic books and the colors of Fauvism.

In the finale, "The Great Gate of Kiev," the protean panache of Glover's lighting for DK reaches a peak. I don't think the recorded sound needed to be so loud, so it's a tribute to what there was to see onstage that I was able mentally to dial that assault back a few notches. In listening to this oft-performed work, I have never been so moved as I was Thursday by the two subdued episodes meant to depict the chanting of priests in the dedication procession. The lighting switches to an all-absorbing purple as the women move in ceremonial fashion, calmly contained in a bubble of piety, before the golden outburst of exultation resumes. Bells herald the theme's final repetition, as dancers rock side to side like giant clappers, the whole stage ablaze.

A couple of episodes that Hochoy has kept close to the description of the original pictures still left him lots of imaginative room. "The Gnome," meant to show a confined, misshapen creature, brought out a display of unhackneyed grotesquerie. It was probably not mistaken to detect some of the trapped postures of love in this episode.

"The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks in Their Shells" was suggestive just enough of its subject to feel comic without becoming Disneyesque. The division of the troupe in two, one moving stolidly, one in near-stationary contrast, marvelously suggested the passing of an ox cart in "Bydlo"; Glover had another lighting triumph here, the figures dappled and flecked with earthen tones, with some highlighting evoking the dramatic illumination of Mannerism.

A couple of solos are worth mentioning: Timothy June's in a group setting of "Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle" and Noah Trulock in a version of the Promenade that he danced with as much flair as I remember ever seeing from him.

I thought he was spectacular all evening, frankly. His acting chops were the focus in "Lake Effect Snow," a 2014 work for DK by Brock Clawson. The work, a kind of Bildungsroman of a young man's adjustment to and acceptance of his uniqueness, uses the motif of Trulock on a bench facing upstage and the gesture of an around-the-shoulder embrace, with his or another's arm occasionally extended around the empty space beside him. A variety of partners encounter the protagonist, and something like a Greek chorus of dance commentary comes into and out of view. There are striking blackouts and the use of isolating light patterns.

Stuart Coleman in "Lake Effect Snow," a reprise of 2015 DK premiere.
Dance is not naturally suited to opening up the interior life, though Clawson's work has plenty of precedents in that regard. Nonetheless, "Lake Effect Snow" is a notable example of  how choreography can be as sensitive to mental and emotional intimacy as related dramatic arts.

His language for the dancers is replete with torso twists, abrupt downward plunges, arms flung outward at the elbow, and other sudden changes of angle. The solitary character seems to be both dreaming these people and experiencing them physically. Other people's relationship to the protagonist is often kept in suspense or presented as shaded by ambiguity and double-mindedness. The outlook seems to me skillfully balanced between pessimism and optimism. That makes the mystery at the heart of "Lake Effect Snow" rewarding to come to terms with.

The program opens with a setting of Rimsky-Korsakov's stirring "Capriccio Espagnol" for about a dozen of Indianapolis School of Ballet's female dancers. Victoria Lyras' choreography had an agreeable in-and-out flow of ensemble and solo movement. The soloists replicated the score's wealth of instrumental solos. The well-known work gathers orchestral force through sweeping triple-meter variations into an intense double-time stretto, by which stage these excellently trained young dancers didn't appear to have much left. But the showcase for them was worthwhile, and they acquitted themselves well.

[Photos by Chris Crawl and Freddie Kelvin]

No comments:

Post a Comment