Given the propensity of offerings on the performing arts scene this and every holiday season, this is the busiest time for me. And since I love Christmas as well as Hanukkah traditions, I revel in the celebration of these holidays that are inherent in each of the events I review. I especially love those presented by dance companies, such as Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Home for the Holidays” concert.” Since I was not available for Thursday’s opening night, I was invited to attend the concert’s dress rehearsal on Wednesday. The concert runs two weekends through December 16 on the Upperstage at Indiana Repertory Theatre. One of my favorite venues in town, I might add.
Act I of the concert featured a solemn, yet moving piece choreographed by DK artistic director David Hochoy in 2003, entitled “Let There Be Light.” It told the story of Hanukkah, which began Sunday, December 2 and ends on Monday. The eight days of the festive celebrations commemorate the tale of the Maccabees, a small group of faithful Jews who defeated the much larger army of the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks) in 165 B.C.E.
Featuring the entire company, the work was set to Leonard Bernstein, “Chichester Psalms,” an extended choral composition in three movements, which is overtly Jewish, with the chorus singing in the text in Hebrew. It is a piece that is alternately joyous, tranquil and at times includes abrupt and clearly unexpected transitions. The overall mood of the music is affirmative and serene, as was Hochoy’s piece, which captured those qualities through movement.
Featuring all the women in the company and two different trios of men who alternate performing at different concerts, the dancers reflected the training and experience afforded them while working under Hochoy’s tutelage. I am continually impressed with the precision of their synchronization, not to mention their individual musicality as expressed in this piece, which clearly displays the company’s Martha Graham legacy and influence. No surprise, considering Hochoy once danced in her company and was her rehearsal director. Also, very appealing about this work was its interesting architecture, which really showcased Hochoy’s prolific creativity.
During the conclusion of the piece, one of the male dancers carried the Menorah, which is attached to a tall stand, onto the center of the stage, after which eight dancers light (from the attendant candle or shammash) and then place candles in their holders. It is a stunning piece of theatre. Given the current rise of antisemitism, the piece was a reminder of the Jewish people’s ability to fight hatred and persecution and the importance of religious freedom, standing up to oppression and moving from darkness to light for us all.
Act 2 of “Home for the Holidays” featured “World Christmas Kaleidoscope, A Celebration of Christmas around the World (1997-2017),” another work choreographed by Hochoy. Having seen DK’s “World of Christmas” holiday concert last year, I knew what to expect. Once again, I was utterly charmed and delighted by the work as a whole, but some of the eight pieces really stood out.
Opening the concert was powerhouse dancer Jillian Godwin, one of my favorite DK dancers, representing Russia as a precocious fairy in a hip-hop-style dance, set to “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from Tchaikovsky’s “’The Nutcracker.”
Lighthearted and simply fun was “Here Comes Santa Claus,” sung by Elvis Presley. Dressed in festive, campy costumes, it was danced by Philip Crawshaw, Emily Dyson, Timothy June, Marie Kuhns, Cody Miley, Paige Robinson, Missy Thompson and Manuel Valdes in a nod to the U.S.
But the dance that appealed to me most, was the tribute to Brazil, set to “Noite Para Festejar” (“A Night for Celebration,”) featuring dancers Philip Crenshaw, Marie Kuhns, Cody Miley, Paige Robinson, Missy Thompson and Manuel Valdes. The piece was easy for me to love because I am such a fan of Brazilian culture and its music, which is so filled with vitality and joyous abandon, perfectly captured by the dancers.
There were serious pieces as well, which I also deeply appreciated for their quiet beauty, all of them portraying a more reverent view of Christmas. They included a piece (Spain) about Mary & Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem, set to “Nadal de Luintra,” and “O Holy Night” (Benin) danced by Stuart Coleman, Aleksa Lukasiewicz and Timothy June.
I have been very entertained by all the holiday shows I have seen. What’s not to like? Lots of color, stimulation and in some cases, over-the-top spectacle. I love a good extravaganza, but what I especially enjoyed as a departure from all the grandness was “Home for the Holidays” for its elegance, subtlety and understated humor and joy. In a market when many performing arts groups are competing for audiences to fill their coffers during the holiday season, DK deserves praise for doing what they do best—nourishing and feeding the soul.
For tickets and information about “Home for the Holidays,” visit irtlive.com or call the IRT Ticket office at (317) 635-5252.