Performance » Dance

Dance Kaleidoscope on the Fringe

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Stuart Coleman is baring it all at this year's IndyFringe Festival.

For the first time in his career, he's ready to peel back the layers and expose his deepest, darkest feelings, no matter the reaction.

"One thing that I've always struggled with as a choreographer is that I always choreograph what I think the audience wants to see ... big numbers with great music that I know the audience will get a reaction from," says Coleman.

Stuart Coleman's latest work in New/Next/Now, brings dance performances from Dance Kaleidoscope to IndyFringe. - PHOTO COURTESY DANCE KALEIDOSCOPE
  • Photo courtesy Dance Kaleidoscope
  • Stuart Coleman's latest work in New/Next/Now, brings dance performances from Dance Kaleidoscope to IndyFringe.

"So when I approached this piece, I said that I needed to be 100 percent honest for me. If that means that this piece is not well received by the public, like my other pieces, that's something I'll have to accept. It was hard for me to let go of that, but knowing that, at the end of the day, I was going to be proud of what I was putting onto the stage made me happy to do it."

Coleman is referring to a new work he's created entitled To Stand on a Moonlit Shore.

The modern dance duet takes an intimate look at Coleman's past relationships -- the push and pull of being rejected, and the times he has rejected others. It's set to Peter Boyer's Three Olympians: Aphrodite, based on the Greek goddess of love.

"I don't always choreograph something quite this personal and quite this deeply emotionally intentional,'" says Coleman, about the piece that features DK dancers Brandon Comer and Mariel Greenlee.

IndyFringe, the popular 11-day experimental arts festival, is the ideal place for Coleman to release his fears and inhibitions. It's where Pauline Moffat, the festival's executive director, says performers from all over the world come to perfect their shows. "Fringe is the place that you can put on original works," she adds.

Coleman, a 23-year-old member of Dance Kaleidoscope and a 2014 graduate of Butler University is counting on it.

"The great part about this is that it's IndyFringe, and it's time for me to feel as little pressure about this experimental phase as possible," he says. "I honestly think that the freedom that the concept of IndyFringe has given me has allowed me to create a very good piece. I'm very proud of the piece."

Coleman is one of seven Dance Kaleidoscope dancers choreographing performances for this year's IndyFringe Festival on Mass Ave.  - PHOTO COURTESY DANCE KALEIDOSCOPE
  • Photo courtesy Dance Kaleidoscope
  • Coleman is one of seven Dance Kaleidoscope dancers choreographing performances for this year's IndyFringe Festival on Mass Ave.

Coleman's work is one of seven in New/Next/Now, a show choreographed by Dance Kaleidoscope's company dancers for IndyFringe. This production will explore where the dancers see the art form today and where it's headed in the future.

The annual arts festival, Aug. 13-23, features performances in theater, dance, magic, storytelling and music by local, national and international artists and companies in venues along Mass Ave.

This is the fifth year that the Indianapolis-based modern dance company is performing at the festival. DK artistic director David Hochoy choreographed the first three years. The dancers took the reigns for the first time last year.

Dance Kaleidoscope director David Hochoy takes pride in watching his dancers choreograph performances  as part of IndyFringe's upcoming New/Next/Now. - PHOTO COURTESY DANCE KALEIDOSCOPE
  • Photo courtesy Dance Kaleidoscope
  • Dance Kaleidoscope director David Hochoy takes pride in watching his dancers choreograph performances as part of IndyFringe's upcoming New/Next/Now.

Hochoy says he's more than happy to pass the baton to his dancers.

"This is really their showcase at Fringe. It's all them," he says. "I gave it over because I wanted them to experience this for themselves."

By "this," Hochoy means giving his dancers the opportunity to reveal themselves as more than just dancers, but also creators. He knows firsthand that doing so means finding that vulnerable place, and sitting in it.

"For all of them it is a leap of faith. The act of choreographing is terrifying in a strange way because you expose yourself. You become very vulnerable," says Hochoy. "It's a very intimidating experience, but it's very good for them to get to experience conquering their fears and pressing on, no matter what."

Moving from dancer to choreographer, Hochoy believes, is a necessary step in his dancers' evolution as artists and performers. It allows the dancers to see what kinds of expressions they come up with, and gives them experience with the other side of the creative process.

"It helps them to become better dancers in the studio and on stage, because they understand what the choreographer has to go through. It's kind of like a 360-degree process," says Hochoy, who maintains that he really does let his dancers take full control for their IndyFringe show.

Ten-year DK veteran dancer Mariel Greenlee believes Hochoy, as well as DK's patrons, are often surprised by what the dancers create for IndyFringe.

Mariel Greenlee will be performing during IndyFringe. Tickets cost between $8 and $15. - PHOTO COURTESY DANCE KALEIDOSCOPE
  • Photo courtesy Dance Kaleidoscope
  • Mariel Greenlee will be performing during IndyFringe. Tickets cost between $8 and $15.

"We have a lot of very loyal patrons who feel like they know you. It's really interesting, I think, for them to see what we do if left to our own devices, and actually for David as well," says Greenlee. "I think he's always curious to see what we're thinking. It's kind of a surprise for Dad to sit back and let the kids have at it."

Last year, Greenlee choreographed a hip-hop piece that focused on love. This year, she has moved back to her modern dance roots to explore the conflict and resolution found within relationships in State of Grace.

The idea for this year's piece came to Greenlee while sitting inside a local restaurant as a couple walked past the window.

"They were arguing about something ... it was playful at first and then it got kind of heated," says Greenlee, who also works as the choreographer for the Phoenix Theatre.

During the argument, the guy grabbed the girl by the arm, she yanked it back, then he said something that diffused the situation, and they walked off in a loving embrace.

"It was five feet of space and about 10 seconds of time that all of this went down, like a mini movie," says Greenlee, entranced by the exchange.

"The physicality of their interaction, like not even hearing what they were saying, was like are they OK, that's not OK. I was kind of unsettled by witnessing it, and it kind of stuck with me."

State of Grace features dancers physically screaming and arguing at each other, and then trying to resolve the situation with the idea that "no matter what you are in conflict with, that you are always trying to reach for a state of grace," says Greenlee.

It's these varying ideas and concepts that Hochoy and his dancers agree are part of the fabric of IndyFringe.

"We always really wanted to be in the Fringe Festival because, by its nature, modern dance has always been exponential and cutting-edge, and we try to put new ideas in front of audiences all the time," says Hochoy.

"It's been a really wonderful opportunity for us to get in front of audiences who might not ordinarily come to see us during our regular season at IRT. There are a lot of things that are different about us when we're at Fringe Festival ... (mainly), it allows us to do the experimental work that we don't normally do. We're able to take chances a little bit more."

Greenlee loves the collaborative nature of the festival.

"All of the shows are just so different and exciting, it's great to be in the mix of that," she says. "I think my favorite part about it is that ... there's camaraderie, and it feels like everyone's in it together, it's very supportive.

Hochoy revels in the festival's uniqueness.

"The best thing to me about IndyFringe is that it's nontraditional and presents art in a nontraditional way," he says. "We are such a city steeped in tradition. It's really great to have a festival that opens up our minds and our senses to alternative forms of expression. It gives us a taste for things that are slightly offbeat and off center.

He says one never knows where the next pocket of movement is coming from or how it's going to resonate with the public.

"That's the value of IndyFringe, is that it opens us up in Indianapolis to what's going on on the street," he says.

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