Jillian Godwin and Dance Kaleidoscope have bonded within a special harmony. In past reviews, I have referred to her impetuous zest, derring-do, intellect surrounding technique and delivery. 

 With DK’s Oct.16 virtual program Puccini People Plus, Godwin closes her formal career as a company member, delivering three iconic farewell solos: 

"Something's Comin'" from West Side Story

Frank Sinatra's "That's Life"

Janis Joplin's "Me and Bobby McGee"

The program also includes:

“Puccini People” (a contemporary look at marginalized people through Puccini arias)

Excerpt from “Food of Love” (a joyous celebration of life)

Edith Piaf's "Non, Je ne regrette rien" (a tribute to the late Christel DeHaan)

Without an audience, Puccini People Plus will be filmed by WFYI Productions on the Indiana Repertory Theatre main stage. Season subscribers will be sent the link to stream the show at 8 p.m. on Oct. 16, and will be able to view the show until Oct. 31. Everyone else will be able to get the link Oct. 17 and, for a nominal fee, view the program from Oct. 17 – 31, 2020. 

“This beautiful show is mostly solos with a few group pieces where the dancers are able to keep a distance from each other,” said Paul Hansen, DK marketing director, in an email.  “Only dancers who live together will be permitted to touch during this show. This will be audience favorite Jillian Godwin’s final performance as she retires from dancing after 17 seasons with DK.” 

Here is an email interview with Jillian: 

RITA KOHN: What drew you to DK?

JILLIAN GODWIN: I grew up watching DK. Even before I started dancing, I remember my mom taking me to see them when we first started attending live theatre/dance when I was eight or nine. A few years later I started dancing and had DK company members as teachers. I always loved the expressiveness and athleticism of the dancers. They seemed true and whole, as if they were always bringing their entire souls onto the stage. 

KOHN: What have been the highlight experiences that impacted your life, as well as the company, the community?

GODWIN: That's a loaded question. There are many moments and experiences that I would say helped make me an artist and resonated with me. The summers I performed with DK at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (2004-2007) changed my perspective on what dance could be. I had to channel something different while dancing in Ashland because the audience is RIGHT THERE: no lights, no wings, it's just you and the music on that outdoor stage. But I made eye contact with the audience — that was really special. We touched that community while we were out there. After that, every time I've stepped on any stage, I'm ready and willing to bare it all. People feel that.  

KOHN: What's the one or three wa-hoo memory/ies about your 17-year-tenure with DK that you are taking with you--and that you hope stays on as a 'Jillian story' as DK transitions into a new paradigm with your retirement?

GODWIN: Again, too many to count. We all have our little inside jokes, we are such a tight group. There was a moment in a rehearsal when a choreographer caught someone out of the corner of her eye doing something and said something about it (not a good thing) and I literally screamed and the entire room started laughing, so now it's a little thing I do sometimes to break up an uncomfortable situation. There's also a running joke that you can tell the year of a performance video by what color my hair is. I used to dye my hair pretty often as a young dancer. I think a special rule in the contract was made for that reason. I know I have a legacy here, but so do all the dancers that have come before me. Yes, I danced with the company for a long time, but we've made our marks in our own ways and people will remember what we've done. 

KOHN: What's next? 

GODWIN: I've been hired as a full time staff member at Central Indiana Dance Academy, so that's exciting. I'm teaching there quite a lot now, as well as teaching at the DK Studios. During quarantine, I got my 200 Registered Yoga Teacher certification from an online studio. I've been practicing yoga for sometime now, and I'd love to find a place where I can grow and learn more about it. I'd also love to get back into singing more. I know I'm not done being on the stage yet, I just can't dance at the same caliber I have the past 17 years. Dance takes its toll on the body, but if the opportunity arises for some musical theatre action and it works with my schedule, I'll be down!

KOHN: Now Aleksa Lukasiewicz and Emily Dyson are DK's senior company members. What valedictory words from you to them? 

GODWIN: Enjoy the journey — there really is no final destination. If there was, we wouldn't still be here doing this. Go to the studios each day with a sense of wonder and excitement, even on those days when the body hurts and the spirit is dim. That's when you'll learn the most about what it means to be an artist and to live this life. Both Aleksa and Emily have turned into beautiful dancers, and I hope the company will look up to them.

KOHN: Is getting personal OK? as Zach Young, that special stage partner who is a super-special life partner.

GODWIN: We shared many special moments together on stage and we always had great chemistry. Honestly, we didn't know we had so much in common until we started hanging out away from DK. Even though Zach isn't dancing anymore, he's my dance partner in life and I know he feels the same about me. It'll be another bridge for us to cross as I retire because he knows it's going to be hard for me. I've been at this for my whole adult life. Although some days I'm not ready to let go, I know he'll be there. This life, this company brought us together and we are grateful for that. We look forward to a long life together, and we'll always dance, even if it's just in our living room.

KOHN: What else? 

GODWIN: I don't have any other thoughts. I've said everything I need to say out on the stage. Perhaps in a few years I'll want to say more, but for now it's time to take one last bow.


Praise for Jillian Godwin: 

“I’ve had the great privilege of watching Jillian grow as a dancer and artist since she was 16. Over the years, she has been many things in my life, but one of the most important is as an inspiration. I've never known a more dedicated, hard working, and passionate dancer. The legacy she will leave at DK is incomparable. “

- Liberty Harris, DK Rehearsal Director 

“Jillian has provided her own special brand of "fireworks" to DK performances for a very long time! From the beginning when she was the youngest company member, to today when she is its most senior member, she demands nothing less than one 150% commitment and pure energy from herself. She inspires by example, and is a shining beacon of dedication and hard work to the younger dancers. She has also been my muse in a number of ballets, inspiring me and other choreographers to create demanding and evocative works on her. Jillian will be greatly missed by all of us, and we wish her the very best in her new and exciting paths to come.”

- David Hochoy, DK Artistic Director


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