Review by Kathi E. B. Ellis
Entire contents copyright © 2016 by Kathi E.B. Ellis. All rights reserved
Photo courtesy Dance Kaleidoscope.
Indiana’s Dance Kaleidoscope came to the Ogle Center in New Albany this weekend. As the Center’s Executive Director, Kirk Randolph said in his welcoming remarks, in Indiana’s bicentennial year what better way to celebrate than an evening of dance set to the music of Indiana’s most famous export, Cole Porter.
Dance Kaleidoscope is itself entering its venerable years, having been started in 1972, and current artistic director David Hochoy is in his 26th year with the company. This evening’s Cole! was originally choreographed in 1997 by Hochoy.
In an engaging pre-show talk Hochoy’s appreciation for the witty music and lyrics of Cole Porter is infectious. His enthusiasm about the period recordings of Porter’s work in the 1930’s and 1940’s is a great warm-up act for the evening’s audience. This is the music that anchors the first act of the evening. After intermission, he shares, Porter’s songs are interpreted by more contemporary artists, demonstrating the timelessness of Porter’s canon.
It is in the second half of the evening that this company feels most at home. Beginning with a tongue in cheek homage to the cowboy, David Byrnes’ cover of, “Don’t Fence Me In,” the company explodes onto the stage in a compact, synchronized phalanx. The monotone grey and black unitards (Cheryl Sparks, designer,) splashed with geometric red shapes are somewhat reminiscent of Miro and contribute to the visual compactness of the second half of the evening.
The full company is also seen in “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” (The Thompson Twins), “Miss Otis Regrets” (Bette Midler), “Easy to Love” (Ella Fitzgerald) – also featuring Jillian Godwin and Brandon Comer – and the finale “You’re The Top” (Louis Armstrong), a series of solos and small group etudes which display the athleticism of the dancers, culminating in a breathless tableau.
Some of Hochoy’s most evocative choreography is on display with the solo and duet pieces in this part of the program. Annie Lennox’s “Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye,” becomes a wistful solo for Mariel Greenlee. “So In Love,” sung by k.d. lang, features an effortless, swirling romance with Caitlin Negron and Zach Young. Brandon Comer and Timothy June play out a provocative brief encounter to “It’s All Right With Me” (Frank Sinatra). It is in these pieces that both the choreographer and the company find the “Cole Soul” of the title of the second half of the evening.
The first half of the evening is pure froth, from the scanty, color-drenched costuming to the fast-paced tempo of many of the recordings, the eight confections of “Ol’ King Cole,” as the first half of the evening is titled, scamper past the audience in a whirl.
“It’s D’Lovely” (Frances Day) is ‘d’lightful,’ as Caitlin Negron flirts with four of the male dancers (the program merely listed ‘company,’ unfortunately) in turn; each rendezvous being delicious, bright, and brief. The loose narrative of this piece anchored the choreography and characterizations more successfully than in other, more abstract, pieces during this part of the programming.
The Jeanne Aubert and Jack Whiting arrangement of “You’re The Top,” set toes a-tapping in the audience as three couples and three soloists embraced the joie-de-vivre of this song. The pre-intermission finale of “Wunderbar,” sung by the Robert Shaw chorale, was a charming, swirling series of waltz patterns, almost overwhelmed by the full-throated capacity of the legendary chorale.
Other quintessential Porter songs included in the first half of the program were “Let’s Do It (Let’s Fall In Love),” “Anything Goes,” “I’ve Got You Under My Skin,” “What Is This Thing Called Love,” and “Begin the Beguine.” The arrangements selected are a who’s who of mid-20th century musicians – and a grand walk down memory lane.
The program credits Laura E. Glover with lighting design. However with many patchy shadows at inopportune moments for the dancers, one wonders if the exigencies of touring contributed to a design not being fully executed.
Cole!, together with the increasing amount of modern dance programming offered by the Kentucky Center, is a welcome addition to the options for dance aficionados in the Louisville Metro area.
September 24, 2016
Paul W. Ogle Cultural and Community Center
Indiana University Southeast
4201 Grant Line Road
New Albany, IN 47150
Kathi E.B. Ellis is an associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a member of Lincoln Center and DirectorsLabChicago. She has attended the La MaMa Directing Symposium in Umbria, Italy and is featured in Southern Artisty, an online registry of outstanding southern artists. Her directing work has been recognized with nominations for South Florida theatre’s Carbonell Award. Locally, Kathi is a member of Looking for Lilith Theatre Company, a founding principal of StageLab theatre training studio, and part of ShoeString Productions, an informal producing collective. She has written book reviews and articles for Southern Theatre, the quarterly publication of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, and was a contributing writer for JCPS’ textbook for the 11th grade Arts and Humanities survey course and for YouthArts Tapestry, a Kentucky Arts Council publication.