Absurdly Cool, Athletic, Glorious: KAIROS Dance Theater and Renaissance Men present: “Folktales, Fables & Feasts”

Gorgeous poster art for the event.

Presented by KAIROS Dance Theater and Renaissance Men
Performed with Sound Icon Ensemble
Artistic Director/choreographer: DeAnna Pellecchia
Music director/conductor: Eric Christopher Perry
Rehearsal director: Kristin Wagner
Master of Ceremonies: Hieu Nguyen
Videographer: Christian de Rezendes, Breaking Branches Pictures
Film/video designer: Lindsay Caddle Lapointe
Dramaturgy by D. MacMillan

June 24 & 25, 2023
BU Tsai Performance Center
685 Commonwealth Ave
Boston, MA

BOSTON, Mass. — KAIROS Dance Theater with the Renaissance Men with the minty fresh instrumentals of Sound Icon Ensemble presented Folktales, Fables & Feasts, a playful cabaret-style music and dance concert on June 24 and 25 at the BU Tsai Center.  The dance was modern and the vocals were operatic, but the concert was satisfyingly new and jaunty. 

The concert’s first half gave KAIROS and the Renaissance Men equal opportunities to showcase their talents. Renaissance Men performed an acapella adaptation of Mozart’s Overture to the Magic Flute that gave new depths to the classic for orchestra that could inspire a barnyard of enthusiasts. 

KAIROS performed Seagulls & Phoenixes set to Animals 1 + Animals 7, performed and recorded by living composer Eric Raynaud. The piece was an athletic, Mad Max-ian ode to the silencing and necessary emancipation of femme and nonbinary voices that directly hits the intersection of political and personal violence facing the US today. The costumes and masks by Carlos Villamil evoked the horrors of a conservative society that would silence women for their own good. 

Vocalists Eric Christopher Perry, Will Prapestis, and Anthony Burkes Garza followed Seagulls & Phoenixes with the appropriately solemn “The Ballad of Little Musgrave and Lady Barnard (1943)” by Britten. It created the correct atmosphere for the premiere of Dress. its music “Kaddish” was composed by Dave Eggar and performed by guest artist Stuart Meyers. 

Meyers entrusted the audience on June 24 with the revelation of their dance. Dress was personal and vulnerable. Meyers pranced into tantrums and out with sweeping arm movements out and up like jazzy crescent moons under pink, blue, and white lighting (trans lighting?). We sincerely hope this piece is shared with larger audiences as it has the power to communicate through movement the risks our queer community takes when embracing their fullest selves. 

Renaissance Men; Photo by Liz Linder

Renaissance Men met Dress with  “Tru Tru Trut Avant,” a drinking song and musical round, by Jean Richafort. The lyrics are translated thusly: “Go, you must drink/Because soon you will die/and be nothing but bones/wrapped in two yards of burial linen.” The gentlemen sounded glorious!  

KAIROS and Renaissance Men joined forces for Tavernous, a reimaging of the four parts of Carl Orff’s “In Taberna” from the Carmina Burana. The whimsical choreography by DeAnna Pellecchia tiptoed into the Comedia dell’arte: posturing, caricature, buffoonery, and adventurous lifts. “In taberna quando sumus” was interpreted by Pellecchia as a massive bar brawl with inspired red hightop sneakered kick and conga lines. It was highly amusing albeit risky due to the classical music’s tendency to adhere to tradition regardless of how many audience members they lose. The risks paid off. 

The cast appeared to be enjoying themselves onstage. This helped the audience enjoy itself. Perry conducted from the orchestra pit, and members of KAIROS and the Renaissance Men performed on the stage together. The audience got to see the two ensembles work collaboratively in real-time. They made eye contact and worked off of the same energies. Anyone who says classical music and modern dance are boring should point naysayers directly to this collaboration.

The evening efforts culminated in the truly unique, so-absurd-it’s-cool performance of Foxy. It’s difficult to describe Foxy. The Renaissance Men sang Rollo H Meyers’ English translation of Igor Stravinsky’s opera Renard from the pit. Perry conducted. KAIROS danced the everliving crap out of Stravinsky’s music giving it an interpretation that Stravinsky couldn’t have divined with pagan blood ritual much less purposefully intended for his original work. More’s the fun for us! 

“FOXY;” Photo by Liz Linder.

Foxy had chickens in booty shorts; the title character briefly wore a nun’s habit (DeAnna Pellecchia); a macho rooster (Olivia Moon) dripping red feathers pole danced. The rooster even spun in slow motion around the pole upside down! Sometimes other characters joined the rooster on the pole! What beats a kickass rooster spinning on a pole while a chamber choir and an orchestra make sweet music together in the pit? Nothing? I think nothing beats that. 

The playbill notes for Folktales, Fables & Feasts are delightfully lurid. The person in charge of writing and editing the piece descriptions and their dramaturgy deserves extra kudos for their colorful adjective use and thoughtful summaries. I learned things and enjoyed myself doing it. 

Classical music and modern dance can be cool, y’all. This concert is easily the coolest thing I’ve seen all year… And the audience was barely half full. I know how many singers, instrumentalists and dancers there are in Boston. I used to be one. So, I say with a minutia of authority as a critic celebrating 10.5 years of moderate infamy and a co-creator of an opera company that still produces work, if the classical arts truly want to survive the modern era, the same performers, producers, directors, conductors, etc. bemoaning the lack of opportunities in Boston must show up to the art that already exists before anything new can be added to the ecology.  

The coronavirus lockdown taught us we need to support the art that already exists or it will disappear. Folktales, Fables & Feasts tried new things that paid off. Foxy was epic for its entire execution, not just its pole dancing. Which was also epic. KAIROS Dance Theater, Renaissance Men, and Sound Icon Ensemble were brilliant separately and even stronger together. The larger classical arts community missed it. What a damn shame.

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