Performance » Dance

A Moving Tribute

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Hit the Road, Jack and don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more ...

Now just try getting that Ray Charles song out of your head today. Or don't fight it at all.

Instead, make plans to tap your toes and snap your fingers to this and a whole lot of other syncopated beats and smooth jazz tunes by the unforgettable Ray Charles (also known as "The Father of Soul") and "The First Lady of Song," Ella Fitzgerald. This week, March 26th through the 29th, Dance Kaleidoscope celebrates their music with the new show, Ray & Ella on the OneAmerica Stage at the Indiana Reportory Theatre.

As seen in his costume drawings, IRT's Guy Clark sought inspiration from Marilyn Monroe for the '50s-style cocktail dresses he created for Ray & Ella. - PHOTO BY EMILY HINKEL
  • Photo by Emily Hinkel
  • As seen in his costume drawings, IRT's Guy Clark sought inspiration from Marilyn Monroe for the '50s-style cocktail dresses he created for Ray & Ella.

The performance includes such classics as Charles' memorable renditions of Let the Good Times Roll, Mess Around and, of course, Hit the Road Jack, as well as Night and Day, Blue Moon and Too Darn Hot by the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald.

DK's marketing director, Paul Hansen, says the brand new program choreographed by David Hochoy and Nick Owens is "really inventive, just really clever choreography," incorporating a lot of steps he hasn't seen them do before.

Although the dancing is undeniably the core of the performance, DK takes great measures to ensure all of the artistic layers of a program -- including costumes and lighting -- work together to create a uniquely well-rounded experience. Hansen says each element adds another dimension to the performance.

Guy Clark, from the Indiana Repertory Theatre's costume shop has created brand-new, costumes, depicting the 1950s. Frame-flattering and flouncy Marilyn Monroe-inspired cocktail dresses in the first act give way to jazzy, red and black ensembles in the second act.

The "final layer of artistry," according to Hansen, is the lighting that's being coordinated by resident lighting designer Laura Glover. "She is just going to rock this," Hansen laughs. "This is the exact kind of concert that she loves to do, and I haven't seen her this excited in a long time."

As if that weren't enough, this Thursday through Saturday, DK will offer a variety of free events before or after the show. These range from free tastings from Sun King Brewery to hors-d'oeuvres noshing with the dance troupe and live music from the Bill Myers Jazz Ensemble.

"Those events are a part of making the [performance] more than just walking into the theater, watching the show and leaving. It's us wanting to make the dance experience fully formed -- to come out with your friends and really have a fantastic time."

David Hochoy and Nick Owens chose from two incredible bodies of work. Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles combined for 202 singles and 25 Grammys between them. - COURTESY OF THE WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons
  • David Hochoy and Nick Owens chose from two incredible bodies of work. Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles combined for 202 singles and 25 Grammys between them.

Hansen won't tip his hand to share too much of what to expect, but he does confide that his favorite piece in the show is when Charles sings Eleanor Rigby, while the central character, who is lost, attempts to find her way through a mass of people.

"It holds you from the moment you hear the first note," he says, "and it holds you all the way through."

While the DK troupe loves the athletics and artistry of dance itself, Hansen say the dancers also enjoy learning more about the musicians and story they're performing. There's always a great depth of emotion involved in the process.

"That's the cool thing about being an artist of any kind, we all learn, every time we do a performance, something new," explains Hansen. "So not only do the dancers learn about these songs that these jazz icons sang, but then they also learn about their lives, both Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. Both of them had some real challenges that they brought into their artistry; you can hear the tinges of what went on in their personal lives, and it makes it all the richer."

This week you can learn more about the lives of these two American jazz icons through their music and the smooth moves of DK's dancers.

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