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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

DK’s latest collection of dances, entitled Divas, opened to a packed house audience on IRT’s OneAmerica Stage for its very limited run. The compilation features dances by eleven choreographers including artistic director David Hochoy and guest choreographer Nicholas A. Owens, who present their new works entitled “Janis” and “Franklin”, respectively. Add to that the creations of nine members of the DK troupe, whose workshop pieces are offered as a first act.

That first act consists of an assortment of divas’ recordings put to dances which range from romantically sentimental to pragmatically humorous with stops in between. All nine offerings show creative savvy and style that someday may lead to major opportunities. Indeed, some of the dancer/choreographers have already had their works seen in local theatre productions.

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Zach Young (left) and Stuart Coleman in Timothy June’s “Enlightenment”, part of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas”.

Of the nine, my favorites include a dynamic styling of Barbara Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade”, choreographed by Stuart Coleman and danced in a sparkling solo by Aleksa Lukasiewicz. Also, Brandon Comer’s design for Patti LaBelle’s haunting rendition of “Over the Rainbow”, danced by a group of eight, is pleasing in its evocative emotional blendings. It serves as a touching salute to our personal loses of loved ones.

Conversely, Timothy June puts his sense of humor to work in a hilarious piece entitled Enlightenment, which deals with personal discovery and self-acceptance. A delightful veil of a storyline enables June’s dancers to go from self-protective to fancy free – for Shirley Bassey’s “I Am What I Am”. Finally,  Jillian Godwin’s First Touch,  Adele’s “I Miss You”, illuminates the “first spark,…first glance,…first yearning,…first touch” of a relationship. It is indeed truly touching and poignant.

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(From left) Aleksa Lukasiewicz, Brandon Comer, Caitlin Negron and Timothy June in David Hochoy’s “Janis”, part of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas”.

The second act consists of the full dance company in Mr. Hochoy’s Janis and Mr. Owens’ Franklin – both of which are tributes to these legendary ladies’ music and message. Janis is a hard rockin’, joyful set of Joplin’s earthy song renditions highlighted by dancer Jillian Godwin’s powerful solo for “Me and Bobby McGee”, and a group of 6 mixing it up for an impassioned “Cry Baby”. Joplin’s performances of “Move Over” and “Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)” round out the work.

Franklin features five of Aretha’s stirring recordings. The three more recognizable to this writer are the familiar “A Natural Woman”, “You’re All I Need to Get By” and, of course, “Respect”. The framework of these dances strongly covered human needs, human love, and the pervasive longing for respect. “You Are My Sunshine” and “First Snow in Kokomo” complete the piece.

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Stuart Coleman and Caitlin Negron in Nicholas A. Owens’ “Franklin”, part of Dance Kaleidoscope’s “Divas”.

Both of these top level choreographers provide great understanding of the emotion inherent in the Joplin/Franklin music. The DK troupe of dancers, a premier group who seem to gain in their artistry each time I see them, provide the wonderfully emotional and concise performances that their choreographers seek. For these reasons, Dance Kaleidoscope again proves itself a valuable treasure in this city’s wealth of artistic riches.

Finally, the excellent costumes by Cheryl Sparks and Guy Clark, with additional costume pieces provided by Barry Doss and Lydia Tanji – coupled with impressive lighting designs by Laura E. Glover – lend sensation and sensitivity to the proceedings.

Bottom-line: This is a fantastic evening of dance you won’t want to forego. Unfortunately, this is a very brief offering, so be sure to get your tickets soon. You cannot plan to go to this wonderful production next weekend; it’ll be gone.

Dance Kaleidoscope’s Divas continues only through February 12. Get information and tickets at http://dancekal.org/features/concerts/divas-february-9-12 or by calling 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography
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