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Forward Momentum: Mariel Greenlee Segues from Dancer to Choreographer-at-large in a Dual Role at Dance Kaleidoscope's “Women Sublime” Oct. 17-20

by Rita Kohn
October 17, 2019
Indiana Repertory Theatre
140 W. Washington Street
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 635-5252
Mariel Greenlee’s retirement from Dance Kaleidoscope marks a career informed by her impeccable theatricality and musicality whether it be portraying a character, lifting lyrics into their essentiality, or conjuring up a musical composition as movement. From the start of her DK tenure nearly fifteen years ago, she made her mark as an ensemble dancer willing to try, and do, what seemed impossible or crazy, and make it feel of-the-moment. Her partnering has reflected her concept of ‘grace.’ She helped us understand the totality of a situation; in the throes of “Every Time We Say Goodbye” there was a tinge of irony in “I die a little.” In that realization her diminishment seeds empowerment. I see that moment in mind’s eye as I sit here typing; Greenlee checking in as everywoman; giving us a template to transform from mourning a double loss—of the other and of herself—and rise up, move onward.

Her playfulness shimmered the music of Gershwin, Porter and Mozart. In Spring 2018, she embodied the spine of The Pioneering Woman in “Appalachian Spring,” her scenes with Caitlin Negron as The Bride bristling with duality of meaning—life here was art and art here was life. Negron was retiring from DK to devote full-time to develop Indy Convergence, and grow a family.

A half year later it’s Greenlee visioning her new role away from DK, her artistic home half a continent away from her birthplace in Vestal, NY, a small town in the shadow of Binghamton, where her dance training developed into an aesthetic informed by, “it does take a village,” bolstered by parental dedication to make ‘follow your heart’ a reality. When her family no longer could afford her spectrum of dance classes, her teachers stepped up to say, “She has to continue,” and offered alternative ways to cover the cost. “For all the years of my childhood, my mother cleaned the studios where I took classes,” said Greenlee, during an interview on Oct. 16, when she added comments that are inserted within the text of the email Q-A exchange below:

What lured you into dance as a life path?

They say that this profession chooses you and not the reverse. Its a hard life for many reasons and the rewards are very specific so it really has to speak to your soul. I knew that it was all I wanted to do, and I had to try for myself before I could ever walk down another path in good conscience with my whole heart, so I went for it. And I was lucky enough to find a home.

I grew up dancing in a small town. I pursued a college dance program: at first ballet at the University of Utah, then transferred to Point Park University to pursue Contemporary dance. I moved to NYC for a year or so and landed in DK. I have been here for 14 years. I’ve gone back to NYC to take intensive study programs at the Martha Graham School 3 times, as well as the teacher training intensive to hone my skills in this particular style, and I also like to pop into my old favorite classes in NYC so I can remember where my voice was first discovered.

As you moved into leadership at DK, what became your role with the 'new kids'?

I suppose you would have to ask them for a complete answer, but mainly I believe in leading by example, and not imposing your views on a group of people; carrying yourself with poise and dignity, being conscious that you are always representing the organization as well as yourself, practicing hard, knowing your steps, being vulnerable, choosing your words, and offering encouragement and insight when it seems appropriate.

Looking back, what were the WOW times?

My early thirties :)

What from your career with DK is most defining the trajectory into your next pathway? What most 'terrified' when you started, what now feels like 'yes, this is what I do'?

Probably Laura Glover asking if any of the dancers had an interest to choreograph Spring Awakening at the Phoenix Theater in 2011 and then David [Hochoy] beginning to let the dancers choreograph Fringe pieces of their choosing in 2013.

The most terrifying was probably Spring Awakening because it was the first and I had never done anything like it before. It was a full production of song and dance. Then Curious Incident [performed 2018 at Fringe DivaFest] was the first time that there wasn’t a lick of dancing per se and it was all based on my movement instinct and intuition. I have enjoyed adapting to every age group from the youngest Summer Stock or Christmas Carol kiddo, to senior level Equity actors learning anything from traditional folk dance to the silliest of wiggles I can dream. I’ve had a lot of fun on Rocky Horror and most recently working with the Marine ensemble of A Few Good Men at the Pittsburgh Public Theater. I loved working with a few members of the Indianapolis Ballet last year, Phoenix Rising and I enjoy making dances with and for my peers at DK. The musical, [“God Bless You Mr. Rosewater” opened the new Phoenix Theatre space May 20, 2018, with choreography by Mariel Greenlee.]

I really enjoy the range of what I get to create. One job led to another, led to two and I am still learning where it is the road leads. I’m not sure that I have fully defined what it is I do now or next but I know it includes movement maker, storyteller, and hopefully in time, arts community shaper. I think the future is in fusion with music, theatre and dance in all its forms, working in collaboration across the community. IndyFringe especially is a gateway for people to work on a small scale and grow from there.

"Mariel has truly been an inspiration,” offered David Hochoy, in an email comment. “Her mastery of the moment, her elegance, grace and beauty, and her supreme artistry have left an indelible mark on the company. I am so very grateful that she came into our milieu for the time that she did. I'm excited to see what she creates for herself and others as she continues her quest for excellence. We all wish her godspeed in her journeys."

“Mariel is a unique gem, a one of a kind diamond. Not just in our Dance Kaleidoscope family but in the world of dance,” wrote Liberty Harris, in an email. “Her gifts and passion go so far beyond what the audience sees. She is an artist and a human that gives all of herself to everyone in her presence, all of the time. We as a community are so lucky to have this precious gem among us.”

Mariel Greenlee, originally from Vestal, NY, received her BA in Dance from Point Park University. She studied in New York City at The Martha Graham Center for Dance, Dance Space (DNA), STEPs, the Paul Taylor School, the Joffrey Ballet School and the David Parsons Workshop. She worked previously with Robert Battle, Margo Sappington, Beth Corning, Keisha Lalama, Susan Stowe and others. In 2007, Greenlee received the Individual Artist Grant from the Indiana Arts Commission, and in 2010 she was awarded a Creative Renewal Arts Fellowship from the Arts Council of Indianapolis. She teaches ballet and modern dance at Stage 1 Dance Academy in Greenwood. Her emergent work as a choreographer started with DK onstage at IndyFringeFest, followed by choreographic collaborations theater companies, including The Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis Repertory Theatre, Indy Summer Stock Stage, The University of Indianapolis, Marian University, Zach Rosing Productions, Phoenix Rising Dance Company, and various music videos, competitions and galas.

Along with staging “State of Grace,” for DK’s Oct. 17-20 program, “Women Sublime,” Greenlee is choreographing The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Atheneum, Urinetown at Marion University, The Christmas Carol at Indiana Repertory Theatre, The Phoenix Theatre Xmas Revue, and A Very Bryan Christmas at Fonseca Theatre Company.

Greenlee’s parting comment was: “It’s going to be a busy Fall!”

Retirement is re-defined.

Get tickets for DK’s “Women Sublime” here:

https://tickets.irtlive.com/4337/4338
Cody Miley and Marie_Kuhns in 'Between'.

Cody Miley and Marie_Kuhns in "Between".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Emily Dyson and Aleksa Lukasiewicz.

Emily Dyson and Aleksa Lukasiewicz.

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Jillian Godwin in 'Aftermath'.

Jillian Godwin in "Aftermath".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Kieran_King in 'Aftermath'.

Kieran_King in "Aftermath".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Mariel Greenlee's final bow.

Mariel Greenlee's final bow.

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Mariel Greenlee being lifted in 'Aftermath'.

Mariel Greenlee being lifted in "Aftermath".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography


Missy Thompson and Kieran King in 'Grace'.

Missy Thompson and Kieran King in "Grace".

Photo © & courtesy of Crowe's Eye Photography

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