Monday, October 19, 2020

Dance Kaleidoscope sends a new set of performances out into the world

It's a been a long wait to see performing artists onstage at full strength in freshly minted performances. That's what Dance Kaleidoscope is offering to patrons through Oct. 31 with an artfully filmed program at its usual home, Indiana Repertory Theatre. 

Puccini People Plus brings together a full-length piece from 1992, Puccini People, supplemented by excerpts from Food for Love, a work created for DK's residency 19 years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and three solos by Jillian Godwin, the company's senior dancer, who is retiring after 17 years.

Using mainly familiar arias from Giacomo Puccini operas, artistic director David Hochoy has built gut-wrenching solos deliberately removed from their operatic context. Puccini had no equal in making memorable art out of needy, emotionally wounded characters, and in this quality Hochoy finds common ground with the originals.

Emily Dyson: A joyous leap of materialistic zest

Even the blithest selection, Quando men vo (informally known as Musetta's Waltz) from La Boheme, shadows its comedy with hints that the coquette's self-involvement makes her clumsy and pathetic. Emily Dyson carries off the portrayal with amusing aplomb, mostly among a clutch of shopping bags. 

In contrast, Paige Robinson makes graceful the costuming handicaps of crutches and a stabilizing boot to transmute the imploring O mio babbino caro (from Gianni Schicchi) into aspirations of healing.

The work opens with the stunning, superbly controlled dancing of Kieran King to Vissi d'arte, the heroine's complaint in Tosca about the trials of the artistic life — never more relevant in general terms than now. The dancer's floor-bound twists and turns are lighted by Laura E. Glover with riveting attention to musculature in extension, evoking the sinewy exuberance of Auguste Rodin's sculpted figures. 

Kieran King embodies the pathos of artistic struggle.
A soaring declaration of determination against formidable odds has made Nessun dorma a media crossover hit, a token from the classical realm boosting the odd fad of YouTube "reaction" videos. The tenor aria from Turandot  has been boldly turned into Puccini People's one duet, a fierce mixture of bonding and antagonism performed vigorously by Cody Miley and Marie Kuhns.

Various other burdens of Puccinian solitude are given new choreographic outfitting in performances by Aaron Steinberg, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, and Manuel Valdes. A kind of stately danced curtain call by all the dancers is accompanied by the magical Humming Chorus from Madama Butterfly. Hochoy drapes an ensemble veil of serenity over an array of personal conflicts, highlighting the pathos of Puccini in his own way.

Aspects of Jillian Godwin's incalculable benefits to the company over the past couple of decades are thrust forward in this show by her appearances in three solos. The Hochoy version of the Janis Joplin song Me and Bobby McGee dates from before Godwin joined DK, but she has made it representative of the funk and spunk she brings to pieces based on pop culture. I remember particularly the pizazz of her contribution to Super Soul nearly nine years ago. She can make angularity look flowing; her sharp rhythmic sense inevitably links to the more rounded parts of the choreography. 

Jillian Godwin reaches for the stars

There's a lot of that quality in a more triumphant vehicle, That's Life, a landmark of late-career Frank Sinatra. But in this case, the bent-forward clutching postures of Me and Bobby McGee get an expanded spectrum; the clutching becomes a credible reach for the heavens and an answer to the low points the song alludes to, set to a massive beat. The third showcase displays her lyrical side: Puccini People Plus opens brightly with Something's Comin' (from West Side Story), in which a Godwin anthem of danced anticipation should set anyone's heart-strings in sympathetic vibration.

The Food for Love excerpts allow the program to end buoyantly (except for a poignant encore, Edith Piaf's Non, je ne regrette rien,  dedicated to the memory of the late philanthropist and DK supporter Christel DeHaan). Masked and gorgeously costumed, the DK dancers create a cheering, multifaceted finale. My good mood was undercut, however, by private, irrepressible bursts of fury at this pandemic, which has ruined so much around the world, especially where leadership has failed to respond adequately. Among other effects, it has kept away what this company has to offer when it's right in front of us in three vibrant dimensions. Reunion with such experiences at IRT is sure to come someday. 

In the meantime, feel free to go to the website to purchase access to Puccini People Plus anytime through the end of the month. Then you can sing your own Vincero, vincero! in empathy with the marvelous Dance Kaleidoscope.

 [Photos by Crowe's Eye Photography]

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