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reviewed by Ken Klingenmeier

Beautiful. Emotional. Fulfilling. Triumphant. Just some of the words that aptly describe the opening night performance of Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring as offered by Dance Kaleidoscope and staged by David Hochoy and Miki Orihara. This classic piece, presented on the IRT Main Stage, was composed by Aaron Copeland for Ms. Graham to choreograph, and premiered in October 1944 –  commissioned by the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Foundation in the Library of Congress. It has grown to be known the world over as a defining element of American dance culture and artistry – projecting not only the innovative American form, but also an American pioneer experience.

The DK dancers are led by Caitlin Negron as The Bride, in her farewell performances with the company after a ten year stint. Ms. Negron is lovely and expressive as the young woman – catching qualities of joy and uncertainty, resolve and anticipation. Her Husbandman is performed by Timothy June, who brings a strong confidence to his role. Together, they skillfully portray a range of emotions that fit the storyline of a new couple in the Spring of their lives, striking out together, facing all the joys and uncertainties of frontier life and marriage.

Mariel Greenlee-Timothy June-Caitlin Negron

(from left) Mariel Greenlee, Timothy June and Caitlin Negron in a scene from Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring”

Mariel Greenlee adds her finely crafted portrayal of The Pioneering Women – a guiding figure for the bride, solemn and wise; while Stuart Coleman (who alternates with Brandon Comer in the role) gives forth a stirring performance as The Revivalist, a rigid man of God.

Completing the cast are Emily Dyson, Marie Kuhns, Aleksa Lukasiewicz, and Misty Thompson as The Followers – four young ladies whose reverence and enthusiasms are brightly offered by this quartet.

Stuart Coleman-Mariel Greenlee

(from left) Stuart Coleman and Mariel Greenlee in a scene from Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring”

Martha Graham’s choreography is unmatched in its portrayals and understanding of the human course. It is remarkable to witness this authentic recreation, augmented by the original set design of Isamu Noguchi and the costume designs by Ms. Graham. We are fortunate, as audience members, to have Mr. Hochoy’s insights on the piece – gathered as he worked beside the great choreographer in her later years. It gives us a chance to see the work as it was meant to be done – it is an unforgettable event, by any account.

Supporting the Graham piece is a first act of varied modern works. Two solo dances – Ave Maria and Losing My Mind, as choreographed by Mr. Hochoy, are expertly presented by dancers Stuart Coleman and Mariel Greenlee, respectively. These offerings – the first, sublime, and the other edgily tormented, lead the way to choreographer Stephanie Martinez’ Taking Watch, an ultra-modern piece performed as much to sounds as to music. It contains a surprising section without any supporting sound – with Timothy June and Caitlin Negron as the main dancers – that is extremely well done.

Jillian Godwin-Taking Watch

Jillian Godwin performs the opening section of Stephanie Martinez’ “Taking Watch”

Finally, the entire troupe gathers all their energy (and leaves it all on the stage) for a rousing rendition of the famous Benny Goodman number – Sing Sing Sing. With choreography by André Megerdichian, this is as lively a number as the company has ever done, evoking the wild dance style of the Goodman era. It’s no surprise that this energy draining performance comes right before intermission!

Every time I have the privilege of seeing the Dance Kaleidoscope company in performance, I am struck by the immensely talented people involved in this troupe. That includes not only the dancers and choreographers, but the lighting designer (Laura E. Glover) and costumers (Cheryl Sparks and Guy Clark) as well. Indianapolis is so very blessed to have this group in its fold and as they enter their 47th year, I can only hope that more and more people who enjoy dance and the arts will be become involved as DK audience members. If you go once, you will want to return again and again.

Appalachian Spring only runs thru Sunday June 3rd, so you will need to get your tickets rather quickly. You can get performance and ticket information by going to http://dancekal.org/features/concerts/appalachian-spring to or by calling the IRT Ticket Office at 317.635.5252.

  • – Photos by Crowe’s Eye Photography
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