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.

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.