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.
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.
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.
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.