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A&E: DK's French program accented by Pratt piece

March 31, 2008

Yes, we are still early in the calendar. But it would be unfair of me to expect to see anything on stage in Indy this year that is more beautiful, more h e a r t - w r e n c h i n g , more exquisitely executed, and more complete than the third movement of "Tangled Web," offered March 20-23 by Dance Kaleidoscope as part of its "The French Connection" program.

I try to refrain from loading down this column with too many names. After all, who but the participants really care to hear the monikers of the entire cast of a play or the whole litany of artists involved in a group show? When something works this magically, though, attention should be paid to all involved. In this case, that means giving due credit first and foremost to choreographer Cynthia Pratt. Her concept here is simple: a woman attempts to single-mindedly but gracefully get from one side of the stage to the other. A man, clearly smitten, attempts with near equal grace and single-mindedness, to stop her. To get her to stay with him. To prioritize him over whatever it is she wants that's beyond our sightlines.

Through dancers Melanie Schrieber and Tanner Hronek, Pratt tells an emotional, universal story that gets lovelier and more heartbreaking with every step. And she's ably assisted by the music of Yann Tiersen, expert lighting by Laura E. Glover, and ideal costumes courtesy of Butler Ballet/Cheryl Sparks.

The rest of the evening was a mixed bag (for the record, with DK, even a flawed mix is usually of a higher order than most other arts offerings in the city). The opening Indiana premiere of "Wien," choreographed by Pascal Rioult, made the snapping of victims' necks part of an ominous but compelling waltz of despair. David Hochoy's new version of "Afternoon of a Faun" reset the Debussy music to a gym, making playful use of a medicine ball.

A revival of Hochoy's Toulouse-Lautrec-inspired "Au Moulin Rouge: La Goulue" never quite achieved the crispness it needed to feel a vital part of the mix. Dancing in part on his knees, Kenoth Shane Patton-sporting a scarf that would make Isadora Duncan think twice-provided the high points.

Closing the program, Pratt's "Tangled Web" reached the aforementioned peak, but also surmounted occasional melodramatic moments and movements. A segment focusing on a woman whose husband is interested in another man seemed to be an audience pleaser but, for me, felt more akin to an angst-ridden made-for-TV movie circa 1985. In its entirety, though, "Tangled Web" was an intriguing-if seemingly incomplete-work.

An unplanned highlight of the March 21 performance occurred thanks to either a) someone's misguided attempt to exit the building through a fire door or b) onstage haze triggering a fire alarm. Whatever the case, once the members of the packed house realized the flashing lights weren't part of the artistic design, we briefly trekked en masse out onto Washington Street and then back to our seats. Resetting a dance piece to begin mid-dance required time, however. Enter David Hochoy, who entertained the incredibly supportive crowd with tales of his days as a Martha Graham dancer. The charm of our host-combined with the goodwill of the crowd-only added to the evening.

You don't have to admire the pleatcrazy absurdities of Issey Miyake, the Reynolds-wrapped look of Mariuccia Mandelli or the pre-"Matrix" fetishwear of Yoshiki Hishinuma to find work to admire at the Indianapolis Museum of Art's "Breaking the Mode" exhibition.

Culled from the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the exhibition, of course, is dominated by the outrageous-the fashions you'd never expect to see on an actual human being. As everyone knows, that's part of the game.

But the exhibition also, wisely, allows for the grace of Jean Paul Gaultier's take on the obligatory spring dress, Mariano Fortuny's stunning glass-beaded silk gown and Martin Margiela's doubletakeinducing frayed jacket.

If there's perhaps too heavy of an emphasis on Miyake ("Breaking the Mode" features enough of his work to qualify for a solid solo exhibition), that's a minor quibble with a fascinating show. By minimizing mannequins and creatively allowing most of the garments to hang from near-invisible wires (and smartly suggest movement), the organizers allow visitors to appreciate these pieces both as adornment and as individual artistic objects.

And if I may offer a heads up to men in attendance: You aren't the first guy-and you surely won't be the last-tempted to make a joke about how the IMA could use some department-store-style chairs outside of the exhibition for men to kick back in while their lady friends go inside. Instead of going for the cheap laugh, just spring for the ticket and check out the show yourself.
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