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Review: DK's "A Weekend Overseas" at The Athenaeum

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4 stars

The Athenaeum, 401 East Michigan Street. Performance runs: Aug. 19-22, 6:30 p.m., on the mainstage; Happy Hour 5:00-6:00 p.m.; tickets 317-940-6555; www.dancekal.org

DK at The Athenaeum zizzles. The heat's up on stage while the audience is in air-conditioned comfort experiencing a world-wide tour through dance set to songs across diverse cultures and time periods.

In "Frere Jacques," David Hochoy creates a cinematic feel with a blackout between ten emotion-laden songs by Jacques Brel, who moved to Paris from Brussels in 1953 to launch his cabaret circuit career. Brel's songs resonated then with survivors of two world wars who wanted a planet where love could be the operative four-letter word. The songs are equally embraced now by those of us who are tired of greed driving us into yet another marathon where most of us must dance endlessly to the tune played by a few. Hochoy bases his mime-driven choreography on the musical Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris which originally opened off-Broadway in 1968, was made into a film in 1975 and was revived off-Broadway in 2006, each time to critical acclaim.

Hochoy creates an arc between the opening "Marathon" with its summary of 20th century world events and the closing "If We Only Have Love" with its vision for a future: "If we only have love/We can melt all the guns/And then give the new world/To our daughters and sons."

Hochoy choreographs for the company of ten to move sensuously, aggressively, submissively, assertively to Brel's evocative music while expressing the lyrics through body language and constantly changing groupings. Everything is at a high pitch — reality and delusion set in with hopefulness skirting the edges and always seeking a way in. We are seeing and feeling multiple layerings, at times glaring, at time mystical.

Liberty Harris particularly arrests attention with superb shawl work to show the depth of intensity in "Marieke" with its commentary on love and loss in the allegory of"The Flanders sun." Throughout this piece, Hochoy pays particular attention to the upper body, arms and hands and position of the shoulders and the head. "Marathon" begins earth-bound; for the succeeding segments the movement progresses ever higher and faster, hitting fever pitch with "Carousel" and reaching as if to outer space toward "the sun and the stars" at the close of the piece. In "Frere Jacques," emotions run the gamut.

The second act takes a 360-degree turn with "Food of Love." Based upon the"love sick" Duke Orsino in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, whose opening line is:

If music be the food of love, play on,

Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,

The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Hochoy's delightful, non-stop worldwide romp across seven love songs counters — even mocks — Orsino's self-indulgent pouting. As in "Frere Jacques," the drama is in relationships Hochoy creates between the music, lyrics and the dancers as the flow softens with an emphasis on fabric floating with lifts, jumps and tumbling. Whimsy is in the air for recognizable folk dancing. Once again, (this piece is a decade-old) four male dancers stop the show with their macho rendition of "Womba Loma." Bravo to Brandon Comer, Timothy June, George Salinas and Zach Young for their bravura.

Experiencing these pieces at The Athenaeum is delightful. Thanks as well to the rest of troupe who equally sparkled in their solo moments and in excellent corps work: Brittany Edwards, Jillian Goodwin, Mariel Greenlee, Kenoth Shane Patton and Caitlin Swihart.Lighting by Laura Glover and costumes by Cheryl Sparks and Lydia Tanji are noteworthy, as always.

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