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Indianapolis Ballet New Works Showcase 2019 Plumbs Netherworlds

by Rita Kohn
November 1, 2019
The District Theatre
627 Massachusetts Ave.
Indianapolis, IN 46204
(317) 685-8687
Rita Kohn, member: Dance Critics Association, Authors Guild, Dramatists Guild
The District Theatre resonated with "Spirits" uplifted, with new choreography delving within the many facets of All Hallows Eve and All Souls Day for Indianapolis Ballet's New Works Showcase 2019, October 31 - November 3 . Woven within the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain - celebrated by people in costumes around bonfires to keep ghosts at bay - is the dual desire to "let people rest in peace" and for them to return for one more day.

Indianapolis Ballet founding company member Kristin Toner made her choreographic debut. Sharing what is at the heart of her work: "It’s how we remember people we have lost," she says. "We each face loss in a different way. We think deeply and something happens with the mourning.”

Toner’s “A New Normal,” with music by Philip Glass, opens itself for multiple interpretations. Three females surround a prone male, obviously freshly dead, each interacts with the body, bringing it back for one last encounter. Are they three facets of the same mourner? Is the female in red representing young love? Is the female in iodine-rust representing the middle-aged companionship? The female in black the old-age widow? Or are the three separate people expressing grief, hoping for just one more chance to express something before death becomes final in their minds, hearts and guts of someone left to live? The theatrical depth in this piece hits everyone with some deep-seated memory of loss and how they coped. Greg Goessner and Shea Johnson alternated as the dead male, with Rowan Allegra, Indiana Cote, and Dagny Hanrahan as the three women each expressing a range of emotions whether in motion or anchored to the floor.

Paul Vitali, associate artistic director and ballet master, is gaining cognizance with edgy choreography on edgy music. His work “The Nest" opened the program with an in-your-face thrust into a clutch of ghoul-like feathered creatures flying on Paul Hindemith’s constantly meter-changing composition. With fingers twisted into claw-like thrusts and insect-like movements, the dancing was fast, aggressive and mesmerizing in its ferocity.

Camila Ferrera and Kristin Toner alternated as head bird of the flock, ready to decimate their partnering cohorts— John Beatrice, Greg Goessner and Glenn Kelich. The feathered corps included: Rowan Allegra , Abigail Bixler, Indiana Cote, Abigail Rose Crowell, Elise Csizmdia, Dagny Hanrahan, Sierra Levin and Mary Ann Schaefer.

Victoria Lyras, Indianapolis Ballet founding artistic director then placed Yoshiko Kamikusa and Chris Lingner in a dusky duet of discovery. Set on a Frederic Chopin “Nocturne,” the pair explored the relationship from different vantage points. Lingner showed an already established fact — you and I are a pair while Kamikusa was not that certain. She tested the seeming commitment. The moment of her decisive "yes!" and his joy in it was everyone’s moment of wow. Along the way, we were gifted with dancing to stand up and cheer. Humans finding themselves and each in the nighttime comes with both a longing and a relief, pricked by —is this just a dream?

Opening Act II, Vitali’s comedic “What Limits,” to music by Mannheim Steamroller, put me in mind both of Balanchine’s “Agon” and Dance Kaleidoscope’s 3-D depiction, about a decade ago of Theodore Roszak’s painting, “Girl at the Piano Recording Sound.”

Clad in tight-fitting shiny psychedelic costumes and studiously remaining mechanical throughout, the corps kept a straight face while going through the craziest patterns of whirrs and oomps, not too unlike the shenanigans in the film Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. But here we’re inside one of those very old, very big computers and TV sets. Things change and everyone dancing never heard of electronics you can’t fit in a pocket.

Giselle is up there with Hamlet as the lust after star role. She is doomed, yet she does not go gladly into the grave. Jessica Miller with Shea Johnson and Yoshiko Kamikusa with Chris Lingner, alternated performances of the “Giselle Pas de Deux.” Simply stunning within the music by Adolphe Adam and choreography by Jean Corelli. Lyra coached this with a tender heart and memory of her own career.

Topping off this already high spirited, intellectually broadening and totally entertaining concert was Lyras’ depiction of Franz Liszt’s “Totentanz,” with three pairs alternating as lead couple: Jessica Miller partnered with Shea Johnson at the Oct. 31 program I attended; alternating were Kamikusa with Lingner, Miller with Johnson and Toner with Riley Horton. With the full company in the corps, the virtuosity here, as in the previous five works, simply amazed.

Up next for Indianapolis Ballet:

The Nutcracker, presented by Methodist Sports Medicine. Nov. 29-Dec. 1, 2019 at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre. Information and tickets here: https://indyballet.org/nutcracker/.
Kristin Toner in Victoria Lyras<br>'Totentanz'.

Kristin Toner in Victoria Lyras
"Totentanz".

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Rowan Allegra & Shea Johnson in <br>Kristin Toner's 'A New Normal'.

Rowan Allegra & Shea Johnson in
Kristin Toner's "A New Normal".

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography


Yoshiko Kamikusa in Jean Corelli's 'Giselle Pas de Deux'.<br>Choreography by

Yoshiko Kamikusa in Jean Corelli's "Giselle Pas de Deux".
Choreography by

Photo © & courtesy of Moonbug Photography

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