IndyFringe: Dance Kaleidoscope ‘Make ’em Laugh Workshop’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

Local fine arts legend and Dance Kaleidoscope artistic director David Hochoy once again gives his professional company a chance to take some risk and be creative, developing original dance routines for this Fringe revue. He had just one request — a tough one for serious dancers — Make ’em laugh!

Company members Brandon Comer, Manuel Valdes, Paige Robinson, Stuart Coleman, Missy Thompson, Timothy June, Jillian Godwin, and Mariel Greenlee knock it out of the park with their choreography (or would a better metaphor be “hilariously slip on a banana peel while rounding the bases”?). They each appear before their piece to give their concept, admirable on its own as they should be breathless from working each others’ dances.

They get off to a rollicking start with an energetic and saucy routine to a song from the musical “Cabaret.” As the dancers exited the stage, Wendy muttered, “Follow that!” Well, they did — again and again.

The next piece — celebrating children at “Recess” — had as much whimsy as humor. Other works have fun with topics including the high school prom, ghosts, the hassles of dancing to serious jazz, waiting in line, and even a humorous take on the occupant of the White House (with music by Randy Rainbow).

One number, June’s “Naptown Misfits,” shows the high degree of skill necessary to dance “badly” — which they do to hilarious effect.

One performance remains, 4:30 p.m. today (Saturday, Aug. 25) at the District Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square), 627 Mass Ave. And as I’ve often said, where else are you gonna see a Dance K show for only $15?

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IndyFringe: ‘Inter(Actions)’

This show is part of the 14th Annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival, a/k/a IndyFringe, Aug. 16-26, 2018 on Mass Ave downtown. Info, etc., at www.IndyFringe.org.

By John Lyle Belden

I’ve heard it famously said that in traditional dances, every movement tells a story. To be honest, that should be true of every good dance performance. For a brilliant example I bring you the young women, and one man, of Crossroads Dance Indy.

As I’ve stated elsewhere, modern and interpretive dance isn’t my thing, so if I found this series of movement pieces engaging, I think anyone can.

It’s not just step-to-the-narrative ballet — though there is a bit of classical ballet, beautifully done — but something more like “feeling” a story rather than hearing it.

The opening piece, “Black Rock Canyon,” to the music of Fleet Foxes, Arcade Fire and Interpol (a minute of this was presented at the Wednesday Fringe preview event) was designed (by Lauren Curry of Indianapolis Movement Arts Collective) to portray life in a religious cult. But the movement themes — women struggling in unison together towards and away from the dark singular presence, who moves among them, judging them, forbidding a budding relationship — could be seen as so much more. I could picture the woman in black as Fate or Death, working among the frantic common folk in their daily struggles, reaching out inevitably to one…

The show’s highlights (for me) included an absolutely beautiful routine to “Female” by Keith Urban, choreography by guest artist Nicole Dean; and an awesome interpretation of the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” — bless you, Ashley Youmell, for making “Ellie” the eternal optimist.

I have to note as well the uncompromising skill of these local dancers — unison where there should be unison, flow into flow, “random” movement that’s anything but. I’m sure a dance professional could nitpick the heck out of their performance, but I’m not a dance person, and maybe you’re not a dance person, so that doesn’t matter. Just know that some of the best storytelling at this year’s Fringe is done without saying a word.

Crossroads Dance’s “Inter(Actions)” is performed at the District Theatre (formerly Theatre on the Square) mainstage, 627 Mass Ave.

Footlite show on a ‘Cole’-fired ship

By John Lyle Belden

With so much drama around us, sometimes it’s nice to indulge in a light musical: All aboard, then, for a “De-Lovely” voyage aboard the SS American in Footlite Musicals’ production of “Anything Goes.”

The comic plot involves love, gangsters on the lam, and a lot of silly disguises and misunderstandings. Billy Crocker (Trenton Baker) wants to stop his girl Hope Harcourt’s (Sydney Norwalk) ill-advised marriage to English “gentleman” Sir Evelyn Oakleigh (Ryan Straut), and gets aid from “America’s Thirteenth-Most-Wanted” Moonface Martin (Tom Bartley) and song-and-dance sensation Reno Sweeney (Susie Harloff).

While that’s good for some laughs, the show’s main purpose is as a delivery vehicle for the hits of Cole Porter (“You’re the Top,” “De-Lovely,” “Friendship,” “I Get a Kick out of You,” “Blow Gabriel Blow” and more, including the title tune) and at that, this production delivers.

Norwalk makes a shining Footlite debut; Baker provides his triple-threat credentials; and Harloff, with the help of Reno’s Angels (Kristen Tschiniak, Becca DeTar, Tara Roberds and Nicole Bridgens) takes charge of the ship with dynamite song and dance numbers (with much credit due to Trish Roberds’ choreography). Straut’s frantic fop is a hoot, and Bartley’s comic chops are spot on, aided by another brilliant performance by Emily Schaab as Martin’s accomplice, Bonnie. Craig Kemp adds to the laughs with his hard-luck businessman, Elisha Whitney (Crocker’s boss). Also impressive are dancing sailors Kyle Cherry and Noah Fields.

The book is admittedly a little dated – and director Kathleen Clarke Horrigan admits as much in her opening curtain speech – but this old gem still entertains. Performances are weekends through March 19 at 1847 N. Alabama St., near downtown Indianapolis. Call 317-926-6630 or visit www.footlite.org.

John L. Belden is also Associate Editor and A&E editor of The Eagle (formerly The Word), the Indianapolis-based Midwest LGBTQ news source.

Toymaker tinkers with oft-told tale

By John Lyle Belden

In the hands of No Exit Performance’s Ryan Mullins and Georgeanna Smith Wade, Mullins’ portrayal of the toymaker Drosselmeyer has expanded to something far beyond the necessary supporting character for the “Nutcracker” ballet, emerging as a signature personality for the No Exit troupe.

His painted, sharp-dressed hunchback looks odd, yet exudes a confident charisma that makes him funny while kind of dangerous (and sexy, he’d insist I add sexy). From the moment he takes the stage, he is in charge, completely. The dancing, giggling players around him obey; the audience, under his firm gaze, are taken by his unusual charm. He can be challenged (and occasionally is) but never defeated – or can he?

I attended a production of No Exit’s “Nutcracker” a couple of years ago. With Drosselmeyer as the emcee, we were treated to a strange but entertaining variation of the story (with dance breaks, but none of the traditional ballet). This year our toymaker has invented something new, yet familiar.

“Drosselmeyer Presents: Another Twisted Classic” is the title of this year’s show, staged in a large downstairs garage area of the Tube Factory, the Big Car artspace located at 1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis (just off south Shelby near Garfield Park).

Our host promises the audience he will stage another edition of the Nutcracker, but first a little nap… Clues like this, and when we see Callie Burke-Hartz as a kid on a crutch, tell us what often-told Christmas tale this band is going to twist. You feel like you know what’s going to happen next – it sorta does, but it totally doesn’t, at least not like you’d expect.

Other notable characters (at this point Drosselmeyer insists you stop reading because it’s not about him; just see his show!) include Lukas Schooler as the magnificent mulleted Mustache Man, the toymaker’s rival for our attention; Michael Burke as the beautiful Ginger; Aaron Beasley as grifter handyman Mr. Scratchit; and the return of Drosselmeyer’s – um, friend? partner? servant? – darling Sparkle (Wade), who in the silent clown tradition, speaks volumes with a gesture. She just wants everyone to be happy, but is there any joy left for her?

Funny, inventive – as much an experience as a play – I highly recommend this show to anyone up for something a little unusual. There are a few mature moments, so this is best for teens and up. The stage location is down a steep staircase, but accommodations can be made for those who have difficulty with this.

Performances resume today (Dec. 7) and run through Saturday, with two more on Dec. 16-17. Get info and tickets at www.noexitperformance.org.

John L. Belden is Associate Editor for The Eagle (formerly The Word), the Indianapolis-based LGBTQ news source, where he also places his reviews.

IndyFringe: The Rhythm Chronicles

By Wendy Carson

The Rhythm Chronicles strives to give the viewer a history lesson on the evolution of tap dancing in America. However, much of this is done through the use of a pre-recorded “conversation” between two disembodied voices. Not only is this device sluggish and often condescending, it greatly detracts from the dancing itself, which is the whole point of the show. Also, it doesn’t help that the voices speak over a dark empty stage, further making the show feel disjointed.

That said, let’s talk about the dancing. From the opening Irish step-dancer and aAfrican tribal performer, the dance numbers highlighted are wonderful. The skill, athleticism as well as the style are all excellent and the dancers are all a joy to watch. Each number builds upon the previous, leading up to a grand finale that is worth the whole ticket price alone.

Hopefully, Circle City Tap Company will find a way to rework this show with a better narrative tool so it can be the fully realized gem that the show should be.

And a note for hoofers of any skill: all in the audience are invited down to the stage at the end to join in the Shim-Sham Shimmy.

Performances are Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 26-28, on the Phoenix Theatre main stage. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

IndyFringe: Modern dance options

By John Lyle Belden

For this entry I’m reviewing two shows: “Inspired Motion” by Crossroads Dance Indy and “Carve” by Motus Dance with Orkestra Projekt.

I’ll admit up front: Dance isn’t really “my thing.” One might think that disqualifies me from being a reliable reviewer of these modern dance shows. But I disagree, to the extent that in this I am the proxy for the average viewer, who hasn’t spent years studying or even thinking about modern dance. Yet you’ve got that Fringe ticket — what are you going to see?

I couldn’t help but think, while watching the dancers execute movements they and their teachers and choreographers had labored over and rehearsed for endless hours, that what I was seeing was like trying to read something with not just unfamiliar words, but a foreign alphabet. When they move their arms like so, or collapse to the floor, or leap in a certain fashion, does it have a meaning they are trying to communicate to us? What is it?

I later spoke with one of the dancers, and she liked my idea that one of the local dance troupes or schools should put on a Fringe show of “the vocabulary of dance,” in which their movements could be better explained and understood. So I can stand at the end of the show, knowing, “ah-ha, I get it now.”

But for now you get my feeble attempts to interpret.

In “Inspired Motion,” in which the dances were designed by the dancers themselves, the performance of the young women of Crossroads Dance can be summed up in the word “graceful.” They flowed one into another like the instinctive flight of a flock of birds. On one piece reflecting the conformity of a cult (going by the printed program) they danced in unison  and unified groups with precision.

For us who must be beat over the head with a metaphor, the piece, “Single Use” makes excellent use of plastic grocery bags as costume and fashion accessories. The ladies even indulge in a bit of humor as they bring their point home.

In “Carve,” on the other hand, the movement of Motus and music of Orkestra Projekt were displays of constant unresolved tension. The dancers had mastery over their bodies and executed their moves expertly. The musicians performed modern Phillip Glass-style pieces (including one by Glass) with sharp precision as well, assuring us that any and all discordant notes were placed there with intent.

On one hand, the styles of these two ensembles, who shared the stage for much of the show, are perfectly suited to one another and their melding is a master stroke. If you like the style of either, this performance is highly recommended. On the other hand, where is the sin in a major chord; and while dance can express strife , stress and pain, can’t it also express joy?

Ah, but what do I know.

Both shows are held on the generous confines of the Theatre on the Square main stage. “Inspired Motion” has performances Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27. The last performance of “Carve” is Sunday evening, Aug. 28. Get info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.

 

IndyFringe: Beyond Ballet

By Wendy Carson

Whether you are an avid fan of ballet, casual observer or complete novice to the art, this show will captivate you with its style and variations.

From traditional dances to inventive takes – as well as a small preview of an upcoming offering – this show highlights what ballet is and can be. The performers here are still young students, yet their style and grace shows that they have honed their talents well.

The most inventive number presented is a solo dance to John Lennon’s classic song, “Imagine,” in which tap and ballet are combined to make something that is breathtakingly beautiful.

This is a perfect showcase for the Indianapolis School of Ballet to introduce new audiences to their program as well as the beauty and dynamics of its performance. It is definitely a must-see performance that will inspire and delight.

Performances on the Theatre on the Square main stage Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26-27. Info and tickets at indyfringefestival.com.