I have been writing about Dance Kaleidoscope, Indiana’s premiere professional dance company, since its inception in 1972 . Consequently I have seen a great deal of its repertoire as well as that of the work of other choreographers and dancers the organization has presented over years. But I can state, uncategorically, that “DK & Friends,” its most recent concert Saturday at the Indiana Repertory on the OneAmerica Stage, was one of my all-time favorites.
The reason behind such a glowing estimation has to do with the fact that the concert was not only highly engaging but also an important reminder of just how fortunate our city and state is, to have a dance company of such stellar quality in our midst.
Also making for an auspicious event was the return, to his former artistic home, of Ricardo Melendez, a popular DK principal dancer and rehearsal director from 1992-1999. Now an associate artistic director of Todd Rosenlieb Dance and artistic Director of Virginia Ballet Theatre, one of his choreographed pieces was showcased in the concert along with several by his life partner and collaborator Todd Rosenlieb, founder and artistic director of the Norfolk, Virginia company named after him.
Other “friends” included in the program were preeminent local artists, singer Doug Dilling and violinist Cathy Morris.
Rosenlieb’s “Heavy Like Waits,” set to indiosynractic music of singer/songwriter and whiskey voiced Tom Waits, opened the concert. His piece featured six dancers from his company, all wearing wool overcoats —a reference to the word play inherent in the piece’s title With the heavy garments, utilized more or less as props, that weighed their wearers down, Rosenlieb’s creation was a commentary on the sort of of unconventional, if not peculiar, characters that Waits likes to write and sing about and who populate the means streets of urban environments.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the drama associated with what occurred next. Fire alarms sounded, shortly after “Voiced,” choreographed by Melendez, commenced, followed by a request that the audience exit the house and leave the building. After a brief period, it was determined that the alarm was false, so the cooperative, good-natured audience members who had gathered under the marquee on the sidewalk in front of the IRT, returned to their seats. Then, the Rosenlieb dancers finally danced the aforementioned piece in its entirety. Deserving of praise for their measured response were both DK and IRT personnel who helped ensure that the crowed evacuation was organized and orderly. The dancers who were interrupted by the fire scare should also be commended for their grace under pressure.
Melendez is a direct descendant of Martha Graham through his former association with Hochoy (a former Graham company member and rehearsal dancer), paid tribute to the modern dance innovator in “Voiced,” set to music by avant garde singer Meredith Monk. Featuring Rosenlieb dancers, Megan Butler, Caitlin Cooley and Janelle Spruill, Melendez’s stark piece reflected movement associated with the Martha Graham Technique, including contractions and poses. Dressed in elegant costumes designed and constructed by Melendez, his piece beautifully expressed the revolutionary Graham style in a work, infused with solemnity, that spoke to the power, strength and beauty of women.
Rosenlieb’s “Suite Sammy,” set to Sammy Davis Jr. songs, captured the essence of Davis laid back style and Las Vegas informed showmanship in choreography that suggested a game of musical chairs as a metaphor for life. Of the three dancers in the piece, Caleb Waybright was a standout, for his nimble musicality, in this clever and heartwarming valentine to the legendary Rat Pack singer.
Probably the most compelling piece in the concert for me was “End of the World,” a world premiere of an affecting creation set to a sorrowful song of the same title by openly gay singer Matt Alber, sung by golden-throated tenor Dilling. It featured DK dancers Stuart Coleman and Tim June in a poignant duet portraying a doomed romance.
The DK company more than lived up to its advertising tag line, “Athletic. Artistic. Powerful.” in Hochoy’s “Skin Walkers,” which premiered in 1999 and which served as the concert’s lively finale. Demonstrating tremendous strength and endurance, the company members wore kilt-like skirts as they executed folk-style dancing to Celtic-flavored music by T.H. Gillespie & L.E. McCullough, played robustly by the imitable Cathy Morris on electric violin.
It was an effervescent conclusion to a program that was distinctive not only for its variety and entertainment value but also for its acknowledgement of dance as a small world. What are the chances of seeing the combined work of choreographers Rosenlieb who danced with Erick Hawkins who was married to Martha Graham, Hochoy who was mentored by the icon, and Melendez, a former acolyte of Hochoy’s— on one stage? Small world, indeed.
For tickets and information about DK’s next concert, “Dance is a Contact Sport,” June 1-4, on the IRT OneAmerica stage, visit dancekal.org or call (317) 635-5252.