Reviewing specific performances that were supposed to occur within the last few years but were postponed or cancelled due to the pandemic, has become a regular pastime these days. There was one, however, that I particularly missed. So it was with great relish that I witnessed the return of the Event of the Year, presented by Kids Dance Outreach at Schrott Center for the Arts at Butler University, on Tuesday. Titled “Dancin’ In The Street,” KDO’s annual showcase of its remarkable dancers, did not disappoint and, in fact, went far beyond my expectations.
With a mission “to positively impact the lives of all children through joyful dance programs that inspire excellence, install confidence, encourage teamwork and applaud persistence.” KDO, celebrating its tenth anniversary, utilized the concert to promote and raise funds for its operation and programs. What sets this inclusive performing arts group apart from others is that it places the spotlight on talented children who attend Indy public and charter schools, ages 8-14 of all races, body types and physical abilities.
The fast-paced, highly entertaining show, choreographed by KDO artistic director Michael Johnson and associate artistic director Monica Munoz, consisted of production numbers, the sort of which are common in big musicals and as elaborate as well. Dancing with joyous abandon, the gifted KDO dancers did so with incredible energy, skill, astonishing execution and unmatched exuberance. Then there was there was their infectious showmanship. Who can resist a smiling kid having fun?
Highlights of the show included production numbers set to mostly pop music with titles such as “Dancing In The Street,” “I Feel Good,” and “Going Back to Indiana.” A variety of other music genres were celebrated in sequences that included in “Saints,” “Barn Dance,” and “If I Had a Hammer.”
Adding to the professional quality of the show was the eight-piece orchestra made up of obviously seasoned musicians, as well as dynamic vocalists Valerie Phelps and Troy Thomas and phenomenal narrator Hawk Hendrix who delivered memorized comments, sans script, without a hitch. Also participating was the Edison School of the Arts Choir.
Speaking of professionalism, New York-based designer Yael Lubetzky donated her time and talent to create the show’s dazzling lighting design. Also deserving praise is Jenny Danek whose affecting photography portraying KDO dancers and WFYI video that was projected throughout. Though not credited, whomever was responsible for the colorful costuming worn by the dancers, deserve recognition as well.
As was done in past, and in lieu of an intermission, a “Find A Need Auction” was conducted by auctioneer Tony Wiseley, during which donors held up numbered cards as they generously responded to appeals for distinct levels of support which ranged from $100. to $5,000. It was an ingenious fundraising tactic, unlike any other I have ever witnessed. The event raised $53,000. and attracted $10,000 in sponsorships.
As was the case when I experienced past Event of the Year shows, I was once again deeply moved and inspired watching the KDO dancers perform with discipline, commitment and from the heart. Following the uplifting show, the young entertainers were lovingly received by their excited family and friends, many with flowers in hand, in the Schrott auditorium lobby. Watching the loving interaction between the young dancers and their biggest fans and supporters, left me feeling hope not only for the future of the arts but for society in general.
For more information about Kids Dance Outreach and its programs visit kidsdanceoutreach.org