The beauty in Dance Kaleidoscope's "Love Is..." program may be only skin deep, but that's enough to make it a satisfying evening of emotionally moving theater. (I caught the March 4 preview. The show runs through March 7).
It opened with "Love Letter," a 2001 piece whose Sam Shepard poetry (recorded by Butler University's Diane Timmerman) proved an awkward match to Cynthia Pratt's choreography. Over-amplification seemed the prime culpret, repeatedly stepping on the subtleties of the dancers. In "Love Letter," five synchronized couples break out into individually paired portraits, offering a charming sensuality I've rarely scene on the IRT stage.
David Hochoy's simple, lovely "For Jose," proved the highlight of the evening. Set to Barbara Cook's prestine performance of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "This Nearly Was Mine," it exquisitely brought together then, sadly, separated dancers Timothy June and Noah Trulock. A mid-piece near-kiss led me to believe that Hochoy was backing away from his obvious subject. But a closing, tender moment made clear that DK trusted its audience's maturity.
The first act ended with guest choreographer Nicholas Owens' "Love Key,' which proved visually arrested but didn't take the audience anywhere unfamiliar or new as a faux-Juliet (backed by boys in silly outfits) faced off against a Romeo-lite (backed by a Soviet-block military movers).
The second act was filled entirely with Hochoy's 1995 piece "Love Songs," with the rich tenor of Steven Stolen often flying into Mandy Patinkin land (particularly on the final piece, "Over the Rainbow") with pianist Catherine Bringerud provided strong support. The piece is structured as a series of loves lost, with the abandoned partner finding the next, who is abandoned and finds the next, etc.
While the varied music and dance energy -- and the passion of the performers (particularly George Salinas, Melanie Schreiber, and Mariel Greenlee) -- kept things interesting, the "La Ronde"-like piece didn't journey toward any place unexpected. Like "Love Key," it felt like a young (bordering on naive) choreographer's work. And while I certainly enjoyed and recommend the evening, I also left yearning for DK to find ideas as rich as its choreographic and dance talent.
But perhaps that's too much to expect from an evening dedicated to the heart and not the head.
At the performance, David Hochoy and DK Executive Director Jan Virgin announced the company's 2010/2011 season, which will open with a "Mad for Musicals" program featuring rethinking of Broadway dance by both Hochoy and Nicholas Owens. January brings "The Elvis Project," from Hochoy and Cynthia Pratt. March offers "Passionate Puccini." The season closes with "A Body Electric," featuring live music from Cathy Morris.