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Scottish Rite Cathedral Theater
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Indiana
Indianapolis, IN
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Ballet not a dying language at Indianapolis School of Ballet

by Rita Kohn
May 11, 2014
Scottish Rite Cathedral Theater
650 N Meridian Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
317.262.3110
Rita Kohn is a member of the Board of the Dance Critics Association.
There were no clichés in the 4 p.m. program of the Indianapolis School of Dance end-of year-concert at the architecturally alluring Scottish Rite Cathedral on May 11.

Programming for variety of genre, sentiment and tempo averted any hint of bland sameness.
Featuring students from preschool to teens the pieces choreographed by the teachers exemplified fresh approaches to showcase the School's attention to the rainbow effect of dance—color your appearance on stage with hues of your special personality, acquired technique, attention to details, and just plain having a good time being in this moment with an audience.

The top of the bill beguiled with a flirty-mime tap Andrews Sisters rendition of "A Bushel and a Peck." Six tiny tots in 1940s dresses popped the lyrics into the balcony.
Bobby Charles' "See You Later Alligator" sparkled with attitude as a company of eight 5-and 6-year-olds let us know they weren't sticking around unless it was worth their while.

A quartet of tap-dancing teens imbued Joe Cocker's "Bye, Bye, Blackbird" with élan.
By the time a ballet corps of eleven unfolded Bizet's "L'Arlesienne Suite No. 1:4" into pictorial visualizations we knew this wasn't your usual clap and get out of here so you don't have to comment experience.

Every level performed at top quality.
Brahms' "Waltzes" earned depth with head tilts and facial expressions.

Four Level 3/4/5 boys ballet students infused Khachaturian's "Waltz" with manliness and whimsical drama.

Oskar Nedbal's "Polka" took on height with Level 1 ballet dancers. Level 5 ballet dancers added playfulness through a kaleidoscope of interactions for Bizet's "Symphony No. 1 in C major, Jeux d'enfants, Scenes Bohemiennes."

Pre-ballet 7 dancers gave Grieg's "Anitra's Dance" unity along with a touch of edge.
With "Singin' in the Rain," Level 4/5 tap dancers sported an ability to Broadway show dance with precision and comedic effect while Level 1 Tap Dancers took Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode" to old-fashioned precision.
Level 6 ballet dancers fleshed Pink Martini's "Andalucia" with eyebrow-shoulder-elbow-lifting-high-stepping swirls and stops for the right touch of sophistication.

Level 3 tap dancers created a sassy production number with Glenn Miller's "In the Mood." Level 4/5 modern dancers presented Bach's "Concerto for 2 Violins" as an expansive landscape.

Overall, the piece that took your breath away was the emotionally poignant "Sorrowful Souls" dedicated to the late Richard Ford, a supporter of arts throughout Indiana. Level 8 ballet dancers Olivia Frieden and Luther DeMyer brought depth, emotional grace and richness to Roberta Wong's choreography set on Max Richter's "Spring 2."

Wong's "What Angels Do When We're Not Looking" set on Richter's "Spring 0" and "Spring 1" and dedicated to her father, equally challenged Level 6/7/8 modern dancers to fully trust each other for lifts and leaps and to communicate a story without anticipating, allowing the aha-moment to intrinsically unfold.

Closing the program, Level 7/8 ballet dancers showed they understood the significance of a diamond shaped poem as they built the pictures for "Diamante" set on Karl Jenkins' "Palladio for String Orchestra: Allegretto." Dedicated "to the life and memory of Robert Rodham," the work took on significance for those of us who know Rodham's place in the pantheon of dance.

In his obituary posted July 17, 1988, Inquirer music critic Daniel Webster wrote: "Robert D. Rodham, 48, widely known dancer, ballet master and stage director whose work with the Pennsylvania Ballet Company in the 1960s and 1970s is generally credited with raising that then-young company to national importance…He gave the ensemble a distinctive, disciplined performing profile - at first by example, for he had been a soloist with the New York City Ballet for five years before joining the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1965."

Perhaps it is with/through the legacy of being a Balanchine-inspired school whose grounding in tradition, history, forward momentum and respect for growth through respect for each other, that inspires something beyond the ordinary in its students, parents, board members, teachers and staff—and audience.

Victoria Lyras, founding artistic director of the 8-year-old Indianapolis School of Ballet was a part of Rodham's legacy, which she carries on through a lovingly honed sense of building an "ensemble" with "a distinctive, disciplined performing profile."

Having chosen to be at a recital on Mother's Day, when I could have been in the company of my children and grandchildren, I was moved to reflect on Jennifer Homan's reasoned analysis, at the close of her monumental Apollo's Angels, that ballet in its current state is coming to "resemble a dying language."

What I witnessed in the Heartland on May 11, 2014, was a vibrant conversation. The doors are open, Apollo, come on in.

Choreographers for "May We Dance," presented May 11, 2014 include: Andrea Bruce, Timothy June, Victoria Lyras, Meghan McGuire, Judith Gregg Peters, Coleen Rhea, Emily Nord Womersley, and Roberta Wong.
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