- Left toright: (standing) Kenoth Shane Patton, Tim June,Liberty Harris, David Hochoy, Brandon Comer, Jamie Ripsky, Mariel Grenlee, MelanieScreiber, Caitlin Swihart; (kneeling) Zach Young, George Salinas; (sitting onfloor) Jillian Godwin. Photo by Mark Lee
Dance Kaleidoscope was established in 1972 by Young Audiences of Indiana. Cherri Jaffee served as artistic director from 1977 and as co-AD with Ginger Hall from late 1980s until David Hochoy's appointment in the fall of 1991, making this year his 20th anniversary as artistic director.
Hochoy, born in Trinidad, West Indies, initially intended to be a physician, but switched to theater and at age 20, and discovered his true love: dance. After studying at the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham schools and dancing with national companies, Hochoy was invited in 1980 to join the Martha Graham Company, advancing to soloist in 1982 and rehearsal director from 1986-1989. Prior to coming to Indianapolis Hochoy served on the faculty at Texas Christian University and as guest faculty and choreographer with the American Dance Festival, Vienna International Dance Festival and dance companies worldwide.
DK is at the cusp of celebrating its 40th anniversary and Hochoy's 20th. NUVO visited with Hochoy for a retrospective and his thoughts about DK's future.
NUVO: What has changed over 20 years with DK, personally and with the company?
Hochoy: I think that the biggest change is that we are now recognized as being one of the "major" players in the Indianapolis performing arts scene. We have certainly become more stable financially, although it is a constant challenge. On the personal side, I now consider Indianapolis to be my home and where I belong. I understand what my role is and love the work that I am blessed to do each day.
Penrod was the first thing I did in fall of 1991 with a company of seven dancers. That season we rehearsed at 429 East Vermont and we performed on the Upper Stage at the IRT in its pre-renovation status. When I realized IRT closed its season in May, I asked if DK could do a program on the Mainstage in June of 1992. I wanted to do a full-length piece to show we could do something big and beautiful, not only small pieces. I put all of my eggs in that basket. A lot was riding on my shoulders.
NUVO: DK subsequently has performed Scheherazade several times, in 1995 at your performance space at the Indianapolis Civic Theatre at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In 2004 Scheherazade was back at the IRT, and in 2008 at Clowes with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
It seems this initial bold venture for a full-length dance has adapted well for DK in multiple venues. Why the moves to different spaces?
Hochoy: Growth comes with moving forward to accessible spaces as they open up. Bringing the company offices and rehearsal studios to Butler and performances again to IRT are part of that.
NUVO: How have the outreach programs you have developed built audience in Indianapolis?
Hochoy: When I first came, I made a commitment to accessibility. I have always felt that someone should be able to walk in off the street and enjoy one of our programs. That, along with programming diverse themed concerts, has built a devoted following of fans. One of the comments from an audience member that I love is, "I never know when the surprise is coming in a DK show, but it always does."
I also think that because the dancers are firmly based in ballet and Martha Graham technique, it gives the company a "look" that audiences can immediately compare with other dance companies they attend. DK has a reputation for collaborating with many different arts groups, and that has also built audiences.
I would have to say, however, that our best attraction is our reputation for constant artistic excellence, and of that I am extremely proud, because we work so hard to achieve it every time.
NUVO: How has the relationship with Oregon Shakespeare Festival shaped DK?
Hochoy: Performing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival developed the dancers into consummate full-blown artists. Having to perform six shows a week all summer gave them the invaluable experience of learning from their performances and growing in a way that only performing can teach, because you will do something in a performance that you never would in 100 rehearsals! It also forced me to open my spheres of influence as a choreographer, since I could not always choose the music that I wanted. You always learn more from the things that you don't want to do, but must.
DK started going to OSF in 1998. For several years we were there for 3-5 months for a full residency. Over the last few years we went for about a week as one of the Green Show performing groups. We're not going there this year, but are going to the Sweet Pea Festival of the Arts in Bozeman, Montana, during August.
NUVO: How does music influence your themes, ideas, shapes?
Hochoy: I'm very influenced by music, and almost always the music is a starting point in the germination of ideas for a piece. I like many different kinds of music, and I think that it is important to expose the DK audience to a wide range in order to keep their interest. I'm very proud of our current season and the wide variety we are presenting this year – music from Broadway shows, Elvis Presley songs, an all Classical program and electronic music [see infobox].
NUVO: What do you look for in building your company of dancers?
Hochoy: Apart from technique, the thing that I look for the most is personality. Martha Graham always talked to us about "holding the stage" and it is ingrained in my aesthetic. I try to bring this out from my dancers as much as possible because I truly believe that the audience wants to connect with the individual dancer. As far as the staff is concerned, I leave that in the capable hands of Jan Virgin, our Executive Director who does a fantastic job. Ex DK dancers are everywhere in the country, teaching and choreographing. Roberta Wong teaches down at IU in Bloomington.
NUVO: How do production elements, costumes, setting, lighting, sound, connect with your choreography?
Hochoy: I consider Laura Glover, lighting design, and Cheryl Sparks, costume design, my artistic partners in the process of creating a work designed for performance. The production elements play a huge role in the overall perception of the performance, and I think that that is one of the things that Dance Kaleidoscope is known for: outstanding production values.
NUVO: What is essential about programming?
Hochoy: During my first season, Arthur Mitchell, then Artistic Director of Dance Theatre of Harlem, told me, "Each performance should be like a delicious meal, with an appetizer, main course and dessert." I have tried to follow that advice whenever I can. I think that variety is important, and I try to have two guest choreographers each season.
I also think that it is important to bring back works from past seasons. Almost inevitably, someone says to me, "You changed it, didn't you?" What they don't realize is that the dancers have changed, the times have changed, and they themselves have changed, and so their perception of the piece will naturally have changed.
NUVO: Where are you taking DK over the next five years?
Hochoy: I think that the company is a good size right now, 11-12 dancers. That is financially feasible. I would love for us to do some more touring, and that is starting to happen. One of my dreams is for us to have a school, where we can train new generations of dancers, and give the current DK dancers an opportunity to teach.
I think that DK has developed into a unique expression of our community. It's not only the fact that the majority of work is created here in Indianapolis. We are an arts organization that exists only because people care enough to support it, and in that way I like to say that that we are truly "of the community, by the community and for the community."