Monthly Archives: August 2011

M&M’s “Love 2 Dance”

Aug 19, 2011 at South Point Casino

The joy of richly-experienced performers pervaded the cozy stage as the 14 international dancers revealed intimate memories of their dance careers.

Audition fears, inspiration sources, performance experiences, and personal reasons for dancing were questions asked and answered through dance and live recitation.

M&M

M&M Love 2 Dance

Among the standout acts were Don Bellamy’s recollection of dancing with Alvin Ailey and sacrificing electrical service for dance shoes; the full company demonstrating the humorous side to auditioning (featuring terrific breakdancing); Tony Coppola’s tap solo  and percussion work; and the hip hop-styled “Money”, which elucidated the challenging costs of classes, shoes, rehearsal space, agents and costumes.

Top acts in the show were “Big Spender”, “I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man” and “Love 2 Dance”.

“Big Spender”, danced and acted by statuesque former showgirls Liz Eliot Lieberman, Lynn Martin Fouce and Karlyn Zambrotta, incorporated Fosse-style choreography and clever banter based on their true life stories.  It was the most delightful and enchanting act of the night.

“I Wanna Be A Dancin’ Man”, a group chair dance, was well-conceived, well-sung, tight and concise.

“Love 2 Dance” featured each dancer stating what he or she felt when dancing, and then soloing to his or her preferred rhythm, played live on drums by Coppola.  An engaging chance to get to know the dancers, and the first indication of the wide variety of dance training among the cast.

The show’s strengths were the variety of musical and dance styles, the technique of the dancers, Coppola’s percussion playing and the live storytelling.  The weaknesses of the show were the costumes, the length of numbers, the ‘Q&A’ structure – and the live storytelling.

Music styles ranging from hip hop to standards, and dance styles from ballet to hip hop, varied the visual and aural experience.  The dancers’ technique shone for the most part (M&M aborted several lifts in the latter part of the show; fatigue could have been a factor).  The personal stories were riveting, celebratory, tragic, inspiring and heartbreaking.  The stuff of a great show.

Speaking or singing while dancing is extraordinarily difficult, and it was executed quite well.  However, heavy breathing, an unavoidable result of dancing, was picked up by the mics,  and was distinctly distracting.  This may be something that their sound guy can smooth out.

Visually, the most disappointing aspect of the show was the lack of costume changes and color – dancers wore the same outfits for several numbers, and everything was black.  Color livens a show.  Melinda’s red dress in the finale was a relief, but it came too late.

Many of the numbers ran too long, and there were too many of them.  The numbers and show would have more punch if shortened.  Ruthless editing will achieve this.

M&M’s elder-characters were funny and would be an appropriate act in a variety show (assuming seniors aren’t offended by them).  However, in the end, the elder-spoofing and Q&A structure were superfluous and jarring.  Omitting them from this show, (yes, cutting all of it out)  and letting each act flow seamlessly into the next would generate anticipation and mystery before each act.  Each act would reveal an answer to an implied question – and that question might vary for each audience member, thereby having different meaning to each observer.

At the very least, M&M should cut the on-stage explanation of how they put the show together.  If it  has to be explained, then the show doesn’t stand on its own legs.  This show can.  An on-stage introduction is scaffolding  —  which should be removed once a structure is completed.  Creator/director thought processes can be shared in director’s notes in the program.

This show has great ‘bones’, in the form of world-class performers with decades of experience.  The Las Vegas community is fortunate to have creative, passionate performers who gather and craft original productions.  “Love 2 Dance” is a nice concept and with further development will become a good show.

Rating: B+

Audience: all ages

Super Summer Theater “The Drowsy Chaperone”

The Drowsy Chaperone

PS Productions' "The Drowsy Chaperone"

PS Productions’ “The Drowsy Chaperone” continued a long tradition of excellent productions at Las Vegas’ very own Super Summer Theater.  Each actor performed with full commitment and passion, each song delivered energy and vigor .  The creative staging and brisk pace of the show were quite engaging.

Impressive performances by Shannon Winkel (Janet Van De Graaf) and Ayler Evan (Adolpho) engrossed the audience.  This writer had previously seen Ms. Winkel in “Singin’ in the Rain” playing Kathy Seldon for Signature Productions earlier this year; it was a treat to see her again in a production.  Her singing and stage presence were captivating, and she showed her significant range of acting, as well.  She also did great justice to the musical direction and tap choreography.

Mr. Evan was charming and appealing in his flamboyant characterization of Adolpho.  He delighted the audience with the vivacious life he brought to each scene.  His physical comedy was hilarious.

Indeed, every element of the show was very well done.  Costumes were impeccably designed and richly detailed, as a close examination after the show revealed.  Lighting was well-designed and executed, the sets were terrific (Lion King posters on the stage-right back wall – yes!) and set changes were smooth.

This musical has a fun, entertaining and positive book.  It was a terrific choice for a summer theater production.  Super Summer Theater has a well-deserved reputation for mounting quality productions, and “The Drowsy Chaperone” splendidly added to this standing.  Don’t miss it.

Rating: A+

Audience: All Ages

Dance in the Desert 2011

CSN’s Nicholas J. Horn Theater

Friday, July 29, 2011

Dance in the Desert 2011 presented a wide variety of technical skill and concepts in its opening night offerings.

The stand-outs of the evening included Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, Nevada Repertory Dance Theater and Noel Julian-Anker.

LVCDT ’s “Portraits”, in which each dancer portrayed a struggle with discrimination, featured the technical brilliance and fierce stage presence of Bernard Geddes and company.  Each dancer was riveting in his/her solo, and the group sections were complex and interesting.  Geddes, especially, embodied fundamental contrasts —  his movement was graceful yet ferocious, grounded yet dynamic, flowing yet sharp, soft yet hard.  Performers with this level of control, power and subtlety are simply stunning to watch.

Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater's "Portraits"

Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater's "Portraits"

NRDT’s “Moving Target” employed less developed dancers who, nevertheless, ably executed very intricate partnering and lifts.  Of significant note was the feeling of suspension during the lifts, which gave a floating quality to the difficult physical work of partnering.

Noel Julian-Anker, performing a solo choreographed by Festival Director Kelly Roth, was technically-accomplished and had an earthy presence with great extension and physical expression.  Her movements were controlled and precise, a satisfying piece that stayed in the mind’s eye after the lights went down.

Dancers in other pieces demonstrated a wide range of stage presence and training: some had a lot, others did not.  But they all took this performance opportunity seriously, and this reflected well on the festival.

Costume design, an important element in a dance festival, also ranged widely from very pedestrian clothes to  formal-wear to inventively-decorated unitards.   Dance is a very visual art and audiences emotionally relate to the costumes as much as to the movement and music.  To the audience, the more unique, flattering, eye-catching and style-specific costumes are, the more enjoyable and memorable a piece is.

There were a few costume faux-pas this evening.  Lynn Needle’s dress in “Haunted” was too revealing during her inverted positions, which was distracting to the nature of the piece.  The loose t-shirts and pants of Desert Dance Theater’s “Are We There Yet?” projected a dance-class impression, and seemed a neglected aspect of the piece.  The green unitards in NRDT’s piece, while practical for lifts, would have flattered the dancers and the choreography better if they had been cut differently.

Lynn Needle "Haunted"

Lynn Needle "Haunted"

Costume successes were evident, as well.  Business suits used in Roth’s “Resident Disturbances” gave the piece visual structure, and the uniqueness of the red unitard in Ms. Julian-Anker’s number helped define the mysterious character.  The formal-wear of “Portraits” reflected the historical significance of the characters, while the diaphanous dress worn by Ms. Needle emphasized her flowing movement.  Canyon Movement Company’s “Unwanted” dancers sported red ribbons tightly wrapped around their necks, and corset-like ribbons on their well-fitted costumes, giving a feeling of restriction, imprisonment or tight control.  This contributed to the story and character-development as much as the choreography.

This first night of Dance in the Desert provided interesting and varied styles and was a welcome artistic addition to performing arts in Las Vegas.

On a facilities note, special mention must go to the Nicholas J. Horn Theater.  With a perfect stage size, great lighting and sound, low ticket prices, not a bad seat in the house, and excellent parking, it remains one of the premier performance venues in the valley.