At first glance, Dance Kaleidoscope’s Divas is virtually critic-proof. After all, what’s not to like about an evening of dance choreographed to the music of some of the world’s most celebrated female singers? The evening promises to be one of pure entertainment … and DK’s Divas is certainly all of that.
But, if you look closer, you’ll see something far more interesting (and intriguing) going on.
Structurally, Divas is divided into halves: the first half features nine numbers choreographed by members of DK’s young dance troupe to the music of such world-class divas as Annie Lenox, Celine Dion, Adele, Stevie Nicks, Kelly Clarkson, Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Patti LaBelle and Barbra Streisand.
The second half features world premieres of works choreographed DK’s Artistic Director David Hochoy (to the music of Janis Joplin) and Guest Choreographer Nicholas A. Owens (to the music of the great Aretha Franklin). Both halves are ably supported by Costumers Guy Clark and Cheryl Sparks, with especially noteworthy work done by Lighting Designer Laura E. Glover.
As you’d expect, Divas’ second half is highly-polished. In his remarks at intermission, David Hochoy spoke of his admiration – born at an early age – for the music of Janis Joplin, and his tribute to her is full of flashing colors, waves of movement and choreography that emphasizes the physicality of his young dancers. It’s a tribute that captures the energy of Joplin’s music, if not its (occasional) sadness.
Nicholas Owens’ tribute to Aretha Franklin is somewhat more varied and, at times, more subdued – featuring such show-stopping numbers as (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman and Respect (two songs that are certainly on everyone’s list of all-time favorite songs) and ending with the lovely and beautifully-choreographed First Snow in Kokomo.
In contrast, Divas’ first half is less a tribute to the divas whose music it celebrates and more of a look inside the minds of the next generation of choreographers, as they explore issues of concern to young people everywhere. Themes covered here include sex, love, the excitement of a first kiss, the joy of self-discovery and the loss of a parent. While technically polished, Divas’ first half is especially interesting because of the idiosyncratic, almost quirky, choices DK’s young artists make.
Jillian Godwin’s First Touch (performed to the music of Adele’s I Miss You), for example, is a very muscular, almost aggressive look at the rush that comes with a new relationship. Missy Trulock’s Edge of Seventeen (choreographed to Stevie Nicks’ song of the same name) features imagery that captures the challenges that women face in dealing with a society that wants them to be both empowered and angelic. Zach Young’s Missionary Man (choreographed to Annie Lenox’s song of the same man) features some sexy – if politically incorrect – choreography, exceeded only by the highly politically incorrect choreography offered by Timothy June’s Enlightenment, a hilarious exploration of diversity and self-discovery danced to Shirley Bassey’s I Am What I Am.
Stuart Coleman makes a bold choice for his Don’t Rain on My Parade (performed by Barbra Streisand) by featuring a single dancer in red (Aleksa Lukasiewicz), in a celebration of the simple joy a person feels in declaring their own self-worth and freedom from expectations (a celebration, Coleman says, that was inspired by the rush he felt when singing Parade solo in a karaoke bar!) These are just some examples of the many delights offered by each of Divas’ nine first half performances.
In his remarks at intermission, David Hochoy spoke about how proud he was of his young dancers and how their work on Divas represents an important first step in helping to preserve the legacy of modern dance. Divas certainly offers an evening’s worth of entertainment, as it celebrates the life and work of some of our most talented female artists. But it also makes you wonder what the future holds – and what works of art DK’s talented choreographers will one day create – as they continue on their journey of self-discovery and channel the artistic power of their own inner divas.
*Note* Dance Kaleidoscope will return with the performances:
April 1: Kaleidoscope of Dance Gala, The Westin, Indianapolis - Buy Tickets Online
April 6-9: DK & Friends, IRT - Buy Tickets
June 1-4: The Indianapolis Colts presents Dance is a Contact Sport, IRT - Buy Tickets
Images: Crowe's Eye Photography
Elizabeth J. Musgrave writes two magazine food and wine columns: Destination Dining and White Linen & Corks,and is a travel, features, food and wine writer, travel and food photographer, and performing arts and restaurant critic. Catch her as the Travel & Leisure Adviser on FOX59 Morning News Show. She also is a speaker, consultant and trainer for hospitality, travel and luxury businesses, P.R., and tourism groups, as well as a radio and television guest and host. Follow her on Twitter @GottaGo, LinkedIn and Facebook.