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Thoughts on Dance Kaleidoscope at the Fringe

August 22, 2012

I’ll get the review part out of the way first: Dance Kaleidoscope’s polished and professional (but with a sly streak), “The Best of Super Soul” at Indy Fringe is a great way to spend an hour and may well be the most wholly satisfying time I’ve had at a DK show in years.

Now to other matters.

Within just a few days of the opening of this year’s Indy Fringe festival, I’ve already had a half dozen conversations with Fringe folks with a topic that can be boiled down to “Does it bug you that DK has a Fringe show when it is such a big, established company?”

It’s a fair question. Let’s discuss.

First, let’s put DK’s involvement in context. David Hochoy’s troupe is far from the only established Indianapolis company involved in the non-juried festival. Blue Monkey Sideshow, No Exit, Angel Burlesque, Footlite Musicals, and Three Dollar Bill Comedy, to name a few, are all year-round companies active in Indy. (FYI: To get a slot in the fest you just have to sign up on time and write a check. Once you do that, you can present your accomplished dance company or a dancing monkey or tell the story of the breakup of your third marriage—it’s entirely up to you as long as your show is less than an hour long..)

Next, let’s deal with the people who say they are going to the Fringe festival and see Dance Kaleidoscope and nothing else. These are like the people who say they are going shopping in the East Village and only go The Gap and Starbucks. Glad they had a good time, but they didn’t have a Fringe experience, just a DK one.

For others, “The Best of Super Soul” ideally could be a gateway drug to other Fringe events. Maybe. Will DK’s core audience become caught up in the spirit of the fest and then give a try a show populated by robots or a monologue about a battle with brain tumors? That would be great, but I think it’s more likely that they see the show and then have dinner at Mesh.

Another objection raised has been the programming. Is there anything Fringey about “The Best of Super Soul,” which is a truncated version of a program that was staged earlier this year at the IRT.

My response: Venue changing can change the experience of a show. The intimacy of “The Best of Super Soul” is part of what makes it exceptional. Far more than on the IRT stages, this DK production had a sexual energy that was palpable. No, the show isn’t groundbreaking. But neither is most of what is staged at the festival. Were there ways it could have been Fringier? Certainly. Would it be practical for a professional company of this size to stage something brand new for a small theater where patrons are paying $10 a ticket? Unlikely.

The question I’ll throw back at objectors to DK is “Why not?”

Yes, DK is attracting big audiences, but I don’t believe that’s at the expense of other shows (Full disclosure: In addition to covering the Fest as part of my IBJ beat, I also produced a Fringe show this season). I love the fact that the Indy Fringe festival is an incubator for local arts groups. But if it also helps DK find new audience, amortize its work, and better secure its continuation, then I’m all for it—provided that Indy Fringe doesn’t become dominated by established companies. With more than 50 acts, though, it’s tough to see that happening.

My only objection would be if the company put on a lousy show. And it didn’t. Which brings me back to a review: If you haven’t seen DK, “The Best of Super Soul” is a great way to introduce yourself to the work of the company. If you haven’t been for a while because you weren’t crazy about DK’s work, then this is a great, inexpensive way to take another sample and see the latest from the new tribe of dancers and a trio of choreographers (David Hochoy, Cynthia Pratt, and Nicholas Owens). If you are already a DK fan, than it’s a love fest.

Whatever the case, see another show while you are on Mass Ave.  

Your thoughts?

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