Thursday, April 8, 2021

Light yet substantial, Dance Kaleidoscope's 'Spring Soufflé' opens vistas of hope and renewal


Drawing obvious benefits from a new home of its own, Dance Kaleidoscope shows in "Spring Soufflé" how thriving despite global uncertainties can look when technical and imaginative prowess is brought to bear to extend a distinguished history.

Available via streaming through April 18, the program includes three world premieres and, in conclusion, a galvanized excerpt from one of the troupe's past hits, "Skin Walkers." 

Old favorite: "Skin Walkers' finale caps "Soufflé."

There is no let-up in the decades-long parade of impressive new works by DK artistic director David Hochoy. The show opens with the plainly titled "Ravel Piano Concerto (First Movement)." In setting this variegated excerpt from the French composer's Piano Concerto in G major, Hochoy takes delight in choreographing the interplay between solo instrument and orchestra. 

The dialogue is splashy and concise in the best manner of Ravel's maturity. Hochoy's insights into that are brightly executed by the company, with Emily Dyson, Paige Robinson, and Stuart Coleman in highlighted positions as Laura E. Glover's richly blue lighting emphasizes the composer's affinity for American jazz of nearly a century ago. 

When the piano part emphasizes florid figuration, the full company follows suit. I particularly enjoyed the way the troupe steps out delicately from offstage in a modest procession during the harp cadenza. All of this is sensitively shot on the Indiana Repertory Theatre stage, with unobtrusive visual changes in depth, by the WFYI Productions cameras. The final measures of Ravel's score are dazzlingly realized.

Emily Franks and Marie Kuhns in "Primavera"

For responsiveness to variety within a well-designed musical framework, Stuart Coleman's new work must be mentioned here. "Primavera" is set to Arcangelo Corelli concerti grossi, music of juxtaposed contrasts for string orchestra. Some of it is fleet and untroubled; elsewhere moodiness and emotional ambivalence take over for a while.  Coleman, DK artistic associate, takes that in stride and revels in how ornamentation cleverly inflects repeated phrases. 

His scenario seeks to bring out the contrasts between the facades people present to one another and how authenticity may emerge with various degrees of intention in social settings. There are representations of gossip and backbiting, self-consciousness as well as nonchalance. Costuming helps distinguish how people choose to decorate or expose their true natures. Lydia Tanji's lyrical costumes are essential to Coleman's concept.

"Primavera" reveals to me how self-presentation may mean presenting our best selves, not just the superficial impressions we often prefer to make. Once again, as he did so well in his 2020 Hochoy collaboration "Give My Regards to..." Coleman displays his astute sense of theater. He seems to have a gift for creating dances that pack a lot into them, but flow with vivid suggestions of humor and conflict, uncluttered and immediate. "Primavera" deserves repertory status as DK stretches into the future.

Hochoy's "Twinkle Twinkle," the program's other world premiere, also shines with a keen wit. It's

Marie Kuhns and Cody Miley in "Twinkle Twinkle"

typically presented in solo dances, with one particularly playful duet variation for Marie Kuhns and Cody Miley. Since the music is a Mozart set of variations on the tune known in French as "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman," Hochoy's manner of spotlighting his  troupe members individually is a  canny choice in this age of enforced isolation, with some restrictions on partnering (even with masking). The climax in a slow company variation, with Cheryl Sparks' costumes adding to the spectacle, raises the curtain on its brisk neighbor at the end. Both variations confirm that "we're all in this together," as the pandemic slogan goes.

The original Celtic-flavored score Hochoy commissioned in 1999 makes a fine setting for the finale, which is in fact the finale of a dance called "Skin Walkers." The piece delves into the folk myth of shape-shifters, beings whose reality is a matter of firm belief, even if each of their realities is a matter of mystery. The mystery is exploited for its joyful, liberating aspects in choreography that is as catchy as the music.

With such a seal placed upon it, the program is a palatable treat. This seasonal soufflé rises reliably.


[Photos by Freddie Kelvin]


 


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