Monday, May 20, 2019

Two durable arts organizations cap their current seasons with 'See the Music, Hear the Dance'

The makings of a spectacular (to revive a TV-associated noun from the '50s) could be predicted with the advance publicity of the collaboration last weekend between Dance Kaleidoscope and the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra (with American Pianists Association in a supporting role).
"Rhapsody in Blue" enchanted the senses together in a DK-ICO collaboration.

The track record of the participants established a reason to believe a spectacular would certainly be delivered. Max Liebman, eat your heart out! And so it was, at least on the evidence of Sunday's final performance of "See the Music, Hear the Dance."

The provocative title alludes to the interplay of the two art forms so well blended in the concert. It's got a psychological corollary in the phenomenon known as synesthesia, which ranges from involuntary and lifelong in some people to a matter of choice, often esthetic, that may find it fruitful to assert beneficial cross-talk between the senses. This aspect of free-floating fantasy linked to the actual world richly pervaded the DK-ICO program.

The sense of touch is crucial to both music and dance. That's a good starting place for synesthesia. The way distinctions of sensory experience break down in dreaming also played a role in "See the Music, Hear the Dance." The classic place in literature is when Bottom awakens from a vivid, literally asinine vision in "A Midsummer Night's Dream." He is astonished that he is no longer under a spell that had given him donkey ears and involved pampering by a fairy queen and her minions.

"The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was," exclaims Shakespeare's forest-haunted weaver outside the play's fantastic Athens. And the synesthetic response, at its extreme in that case, was quickly suggested more modestly in this program by artistic director David Hochoy's setting of three pieces from Respighi's "Ancient Airs and Dances."

It's a revival of a 2011 set of choreographic responses to three of the Italian composer's evocations of early European dance and song forms as imagined by his countrymen of centuries before. The mood is optimistic and buoyant. The company moves in a continually evolving manner, with thickening and thinning ensemble textures. The gestures are open and confident, affirming an idealized social bond. The gentle smiles evident on the dancers' faces, never forced or locked into place, helped emphasize the relaxed mood. As usual, the lighting of Laura E. Glover and costumes of Cheryl Sparks were perfectly complementary.

The fantasy became more robust — after a mild orchestral interlude, William Grant Still's "Serenade" — in the program's centerpiece, Hochoy's "Rhapsody in Blue" from 2006, revived this time with the ICO under Matthew Kraemer's direction, and with 2017 APA Classical Fellow Drew Petersen taking the solo piano role. Rhapsodic from George Gershwin's first notes — a coy clarinet trill that moves into a sweeping, blues-inflected glissando — the ballet opens with Mariel Greenlee's fleet entrance. The lighting makes her especially sculptural in appearance, her movement seemingly molded and caught in a stop-action illusion even as it continues.

Some hint of Charles Sheeler was in the Rhapsody in Blue costumes.
Hochoy is sensitive to the piece's rapid succession of moods. Gershwin was not at all practiced in musical long forms, and the choreography turns that to advantage. The march-like sassiness that soon comes to the fore brings on dancers realizing the frenetic urban environment. Sparks' costumes rely on contrasts of shading more than color, with patches suggesting what natural light does to urban architecture, making an almost tactile geometry. I was reminded of paintings by the American modernist Charles Sheeler.

As Gershwin's inherent romanticism takes the music over, we see what we're hearing: a rhapsody in flowing blue costuming, with couples in ballroom-dance formations. The composition's big tune — which one commentator has pointed out is as definitive as that clarinet glissando — brings on an enraptured pas de deux for Greenlee and  Timothy June. It's a partnership that seemed unerring in all respects, both in motion and as a still image in the mind's eye.

Mariel Greenlee and Timothy June went the rhapsodic distance with Gershwin.
After that impressed the audience with its imaginative grandeur Sunday afternoon, Gershwin's brief resumption of the lively urban ensemble dancing is surmounted as the tempo broadens by the reappearance of the couple, with a triumphant lift accompanying the final chords.

Petersen's crisp, authentic verve in the solo, firmly coordinated under Kraemer's baton, contributed its own spectacular effect; he obliged the audience ovation with an unaccompanied encore, a well-decorated arrangement of Gershwin's "The Man I Love."

Hochoy's new piece followed intermission. Maurice Ravel's "Mother Goose" suite, a five-part fairytale journey, completed the synesthetic sojourn. The connections  between the tales, with their highly contrasting musical embodiment, were assured by the implied narrative of Paige Robinson as the Storyteller. Her successive stories and their characters arrive hidden behind elegantly borne curtains and emerge to become Beauty and the Beast (Greenlee and June again, fulfilling much different demands this time around), Hop o' My Thumb (or Tom Thumb) with Manuel Valdes portraying a wanderer search for a way forward, and the "Laideronette, Empress of the Pagoda" (Jillian Godwin and Stuart
The breathtaking final scene of "Mother Goose," with the Storyteller at the center.
Coleman). The full-bore enchantment was clad in costumes by Sparks, Barry Doss, and Lydia Tanji, and the lighting was once again fully consonant with Hochoy's playful imagination.

I felt a little bit of the delicious confusion of Shakespeare's Bottom at the end, yet it was a phantasmagoria I wasn't quite sure I was eager to awaken from. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen such a dream before DK and ICO crafted it for us.

[Production photos by Crowe's Eye Photography]

1 comment:

  1. Reading your words is as much a delight as the concert itself, Jay. Thank you! Sandy Reiberg
    (on Bob's account)