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Kenoth Shane Patton's legacy in dance

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Kenoth Shane Patton is leaving Dance Kaleidoscope after a storied 14-year tenure. His final performance with the company was on was April 11 at the Pike Performing Arts Center, where a packed student audience saw him dance roles from Dance Kaleidoscope's two most recent premieres (first performed in the show All the World's a Stage - as The Poet (i.e. Shakespeare) in Remembrance of Things Past and Juliet's father in Romeo and Juliet.

"Shane Patton has had a huge impact on the artistic life of Dance Kaleidoscope for the past 14 seasons," Dance Kaleidoscope Artistic Director David Hochoy told NUVO. "His strength of conviction, attack and dynamic physicality have put him at the forefront of the company, and made him a role model and leading dancer."

Patton says he did not "find dance, or rather dance did not find him," until he enrolled at Oklahoma University, initially as a drama major. As his senior thesis project for a BFA in dance performance, Patton choreographed a piece in honor of his Cherokee heritage titled "Great Spirit," which he performed at the groundbreaking ceremony of the Oklahoma University Natural History Museum. He has since performed the work as part of DK's 2002 production Land of the Free, as well during the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

In addition to his work with Dance Kaleidoscope, performed the lead role in Temptations of the Moon with the Martha Graham Ensemble in the summer of 1998. He has performed and taught in Singapore with Dance Ensemble of Singapore, and studied with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and the Martha Graham Company.

NUVO talked with Patton on April 11, following his closing performance.

NUVO: Why did you choose to come to Dance Kaleidoscope?

Kenoth Shane Patton: After I graduated [from Oklahoma University in 1998] I went to New York hoping to get into a dance company. I learned a lot, but to my surprise, because of economic difficulties and the political atmosphere I realized this specific thing is not going to happen. Somehow I caught wind of a flyer announcing auditions for a man and a woman dancer for a company based on the Martha Graham technique and I thought, "This sounds like the next best thing. At least I could learn from it." I went to the audition and did my best. By then I realized New York City was not a place for me to live. DK offered me a one-year contract. After that one year, things were good and I did another year and before I knew it I was in. I've been comfortable being here in Indianapolis.

NUVO: How have you assumed leadership and passed on the DK tradition over the past 14 years?

Patton: In a way it's always been natural to me to lead. I am a big brother; I have a little brother nine years younger. I was teaching him about discipline more than my parents did. I was doing that when I was young and it just carried over into my life. By the time I got here I had a solid vision about my craft and I have since learned from David even though sometimes we clashed, which is part of working together. Over the years, as I started seeing people who needed something said to them it was natural for me to step up and teach them something about what I learned. It used to upset me when I observed they were giving less than they could and it would come out as aggressive on my part, but as I matured, I let it go. I switched from bitching to helping, and I noticed people respond a lot better to helping.

Patton as The Poet with Liberty Harris as The Dark Lady in April's Dance Kaleidoscope premiere of 'Remembrance of Things Past.'
  • Patton as The Poet with Liberty Harris as The Dark Lady in April's Dance Kaleidoscope premiere of 'Remembrance of Things Past.'
NUVO: What is most important in dance training?

Patton: If dancing is what you want to do you have to train every day. It is the only way I have survived 14 years without injury. Dance programs need to instill how important it is to build strength physically and mentally and to build focus; it's the way to your soul that's essential to dance. Students need to know how much you really have to work to develop strength in all parts of your life. When I originally choreographed "Great Spirit" for my thesis in college, I was inspired by the Eagle Dance for the choreography and the clothing. I had to do a photo shoot, and in the corner of the photo of me in my clothing for the dance, I placed a quote I had found, "Your strength comes from the degree of love you possess." I have loved doing this so much it made it easy.

NUVO: What have been your most challenging dance roles?

Patton: Most challenging have been the ones where, in order for the role to work, I've had to show my vulnerability. I love using my natural thing - my warrior nature. When I'm called on to show defeat, weakness, vulnerability, it's scary and has felt foreign to me. I had to figure out, "How do I dance soft and make it look good in my mind?" So to put the art in it because this is what the role calls for. Ego is out the window.

NUVO: What favorites?

Patton: My absolute favorite is Rite of Spring because Martha Graham did it. This is really cool. David did it in the Graham style. I used everything I know. [My role as the Shaman] ranged from being warrior to being vulnerable. To experience Stravinsky's music every day for six weeks is something special; this music is like the rock and roll of when it was created [1913].

NUVO: How did your creative renewal fellowship in 2009, which you used to "connect with your Cherokee roots," interface with your succeeding work with DK?

Patton: At that time I was in danger of burning out. I needed to remember my roots, where I came from. It's important to honor and respect who you are, to feel comfortable in your own skin. Going back gave me more confidence to go forward. It's worthwhile being who you are, being able follow your heart, having courage to do that.

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