Imagine yourself sitting in an Athens hotel room, watching a Greek version of "The Ed Sullivan Show." You can experience the same thing live by attending a performance of the Kalidoskopio of Greece, which appeared last night at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
Kalidoskopio presents an all-too-familiar package of Greek culture in the slickest and most distancing manner imaginable. One has seen and heard it all so many times before: the giddy twang of the bouzouki orchestra, the fervent singers, the chain of beaming folk dancers, garbed in an ever-changing array of brightly hued costumes, circling and grape vining across the floor.
From the start, the program veered back and forth between two jarringly contrasting forms of popular art: the aforementioned folk dance routines, and the contemporary ballads of a Greece that, judging by this presentation, likes its singers brassy, heavily miked and gaudily outfitted.
Despite these cliche's and excesses, there were some definite highlights. Yanis Bithikotsis' bouzouki playing was a model of tanging clarity. Conductor and artistic director Giorgos Katsaros' saxophone solos were notable for their sinuous sound. The 14 dancers of the Eleni Tsaouli Hellenic Folk Dance Group were well trained and free of affectations, and while the steps grew repetitious after a time, the intricate footwork and sense of community never flagged. The seven men especially dazzled with their high kicks, risky, tilting stunts and resilient knee bends.