Friday, April 6, 2018

The other shoe drops: Dance Kaleidoscope devotes a program to "divos"

Honed by an Indy Fringe Festival  show just as its predecessor "Divas" had been, "Divos" shows off further refinements in Dance Kaleidoscope dancers as choreographers. In addition, the program, which opened Thursday evening on the OneAmerica Stage at Indiana Repertory Theatre, is crowned by two world premieres — one by artistic director David Hochoy, the other by the troupe's frequent guest choreographer, Nicholas Owens.

Brandon Comer: The spirit of Elton John
The second half of the show's concentration on two seasoned choreographers by no means overshadows the enchanting variety of the seven short pieces before intermission. And each echoed the variety of responses to particular male pop idols evident in what DK members first fashioned upon their colleagues last summer.

The sunny fantasies of Elton John brought out the full brio of Hochoy's muse: She's a lady with the instincts of a good-time gal. With Brandon Comer as central figure in "Crocodile Rock," the first of four songs in "Eltoniana," there was particular showcasing of the singer-songwriter's flamboyant style. Guy Clark's costume design had as centerpiece Comer in white-framed glasses with his bare chest set off by feathery white "wings." In this number and the ensemble piece "Don't Go Breaking My Heart," there was plenty of opportunity to appreciate what a fully expressive dancer Comer has become — from head to toe a vision of galvanized charm, athleticism, and the lineaments of insouciance with nothing careless about it.

The exquisite balance characteristic of Hochoy's choreography was brought to bear in "Your Song," in which the interplay of one male (Stuart Coleman) and four female dancers (Emily Dyson, Marie Kuhns, Aleksa Lukasiewicz and Missy Thompson) was both distinctive and equalized in tension and rapport. The fourth Elton John song, "Tiny Dancer," made something different of gender imbalance, with Timothy June as  a figure under the somewhat ethereal enchantment of Jillian Godwin, Caitlin Negron, and Mariel Greenlee.

The show ended with the more severe, intensified outlook of Prince in focus, as interpreted by Owens'
choreography. Costumes of (simulated?) dark leather shot off flashes of light in Laura E. Glover's virtuosic design. "Solo," with Manuel Valdes and Timothy June, was a particularly effective showcase for Prince's rapturous, somewhat baroque artistry. Owens was in his element, sending dancers back and forth, reveling in the spaciousness he had to work with. I enjoyed how he was able to maintain the electricity of the concept while not allowing his inspirations to crowd one another.
Cody Miley, Jillian Godwin, and Manuel Valdes in "Purple Rain"

To detail the impressions left by the seven dancer-created pieces in the first half would be tedious, though the works themselves were anything but. Each one was introduced by its creator, and their statements were both cogent and moving. Hearts are embedded in these songs, and personal experiences are addressed in sublimated form. Dancers are inherently motivated to give feelings that are often hard to articulate physical expression, and to show us how what moves the soul tends to find some kind of outlet even in the bodies of non-dancers.

I enjoyed the ache of attraction and the peril of clinging in Paige Robinson's "You Take My Breath Away" and Caitlin Negron's seamless embodiment in "Dream On" of how our nightmares often cast us as both participant and observer. Then there was a sentimental lesson in how dance in ensemble can flowingly display the need to "Surround Yourself" with compatible people (Stuart Coleman). Complementary intrusiveness and rejection by our demons (costumed in black and masked in Timothy June's "Hurt") came through with three solo dancers bedeviled individualistically.

In three of the pieces, I felt the choreographers' signature artistry as dancers was projected particularly well. Each is a DK veteran whose dance personality has become familiar to me over the seasons. Mariel Greenlee's "Keep Faith" displayed her aptitude for characterization, with moments of relief and doubt getting concise emphasis, and her intimacy with theatrical effect as evidenced in her work for the Phoenix Theatre and IRT.  Brandon Comer's "Dangerous Diana" suited a couple of Michael Jackson songs by spotlighting physical exuberance and embrace of the risk factor, as well as a streetwise sense of how we present our public selves. Jillian Godwin's "Zeppelin," its title indicating a favorite band of hers, with four Led Zeppelin songs mixed by Mike Lamirand, suggested her sizzle, her gift for putting across accents with pixieish flair, and an expressive range from raunchiness to vulnerability.

No matter how well you know the music that gave birth to these nine pieces, DK in "Divos" has put flesh upon vibes that have moved millions.

[Photos by Freddie Kelvin]

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