Something peculiar to the aura that pop divas gather around themselves engenders optimism, even when they move into torch songs and other expressions of doubt and pain. That probably accounts for the upbeat feeling pervading the nine pieces assembled for Dance Kaleidoscope’s 2016 IndyFringe Festival contribution, “Divas Workshop” on the main stage at Theatre on the Square.
The key to happiness is the disposition to be pleased, the 18th-century man of letters Samuel Johnson says somewhere. This disposition triumphed in this program by DK dancers, and the result shows that being so disposed doesn’t mean that happiness is easily achieved or held onto. (Artistic director David Hochoy will use Fringe audience response plus his own programming knack to decide which of the short works will be further rehearsed for DK’s February concert.)
The comic approach to Dr. Johnson’s truth came through in Timothy June’s “Enlightenment,” with its busy, distracted street scene breaking apart and coalescing around the positivity expressed by dancer Stuart Coleman. Set to an assertive vocal by Shirley Bassey (“I Am What I Am”), the buoyant piece showed that accepting oneself as more than the sum of others’ expectations is infectious and life-enhancing.
With the right nudges, people can turn aside from ruts of routine and duty they tend to settle unhappily into. The scenario sounds sentimental, but June’s choreography handled it imaginatively, with a smoothly working blend of everyday movement and idiomatic dance that communicated the discovery of joy.
Other pieces struck that note as well, with the comedy muted. A strong feminist statement — celebratory, not bitter — was offered in Missy Trulock’s setting of Stevie Nicks’ “Edge of Seventeen” for five women, with its advice to “float like goddesses” emphasized by sparkly, gauzy black shawls in the costuming and their eventual draping on the lead dancer, Jillian Godwin. Broadway pizazz on the theme of self-realization came with Stuart Coleman’s solo for Aleksa Lukasiewicz to Barbra Streisand’s “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Lukasiewsicz’s crisp articulation of Coleman’s busy choreography (a busyness well suited to the way Streisand sings) was radiant and authoritative from first note to last.
|Paige Robinson in “Fragmented Dreams”|
Challenges to the disposition to be pleased were handled in a couple of pieces. Noah Trulock used Kelly Clarkson’s “The Trouble With Love Is” to probe the difficulties of the dating scene, as he told us in introducing “A
Dance About Love.” The piece wove on the recording’s loom episodes of trust and betrayal, attraction and repulsion. The upshot, unless I’m reading too much into it, seems to be that it’s all worth the effort to seek satisfying connections, though Clarkson’s belting style keeps doubt alive.
Passion makes it possible, and passion gets in the way of judgment, too. In Mariel Greenlee’s “Surrender,” the difficulty of yielding to romantic impulses, responding to their pushes and pulls while attempting to stay in control, was memorably set to Nina Simone’s dark, steady, oddly reassuring advisory in “Wild Is the Wind.” The choreography was exceptional in its attention to emotion expressed by seven dancers in nicely calibrated, reflective movement.