LVBC “Nutcracker” a Holiday Treat

Las Vegas Ballet Company “Nutcracker 2019”

Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center

The 2-hour presentation by Las Vegas Ballet Company of the time-honored “Nutcracker” embodied the essential spirit of the traditional production, with all the grace, strength, cuteness (little mice!), sparkle, and superhuman athleticism that seasoned balletomanes and newcomers alike will cherish.

If opening night is an indication, LVBC has once again created a grand night of dancing. The company is brimming full of talented and highly trained ballet heroes and heroines. Artistic director and choreographer Kyudong Kwak has made visual magic for this holiday season. He and his ballet mistress, wife Yoomi Lee, have honed the physicality of dozens of dancers into a finely tuned instrument that plays right to the heart.

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Yoomi Lee as a Mirliton. (Photo credit: Stan Judd)
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Christina Stockdale as Dew Drop Fairy. (Photo credit: Stan Judd)
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Min Woo Kang as Nutcracker; Siera Milaudon as Sugar Plum Fairy (Photo credit: Stan Judd)

The visual language they dance is a perfectly-crafted poem to beauty and passion. Nothing on screen or film can compare to the vitality and artistry of live dance, and this performance is a perfect example. The precision and musicality demonstrated by every dancer on the stage is a testament to years of hard work, self-sacrifice and dedication by the dancers and their teachers. In the areas of motivation, self-control, and self-discipline, no one tops dancers; these qualities are how they master such difficult physical feats over decades, then perform them with lightness and joy. The stunning performances by so many dancers in a small company was truly glorious.

The perfect stage presence and world-class skill of Mr. Kwak and Ms. Lee are always superlative and thoroughly inspiring. This production was also graced by special guests Min-Woo Kang and Christina Stockton, who brought breathtaking strength and talent to their roles. Of special mention was Siera Miluadon as the Columbine and Sugar Plum Fairy. Her flawless technique and precision were enrapturing. Samuel Kwak slayed as the Moor and Russian. Jaiden Rounds as the Harlequin was also a standout for the clean lines and energy in the character movement.

Las Vegas Ballet Company is a strong part of the performing arts community in Las Vegas. Don’t miss this wonderful production!

Grade: A++++

Ages: All

"Nutcracker" 2019 LVBC
“Nutcracker 2019” by Las Vegas Ballet Company. (Photo credit: Stan Judd)

Banquet of a Dance Feast

21st Annual Las Vegas Dance In the Desert Festival

Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center

July 26 and 27, 2019

 

Gourmet dance feast.

This annual festival is food for the soul.

After 21 years, Dance in the Desert Festival still brings outstanding dance presentations from around the country to Las Vegas to delight the artistic palate of dancers and non-dancers alike.

Each year, there are dance pieces, dancers, and messages that are unforgettable. One exits in a daze of wondrous soaring and flowing human images permanently etched into memory.  The choreographic creativity and the performing expressiveness change the heart and breath, metaphysically transforming even those who only watch. Witnessing the creations is an annual pilgrimage to a dance sanctuary, a reinvigoration of the imagination and soul.

The festival opened with Kaleidoscape Dance’s Siren’s Call, a lovely flowing number, a beautiful welcoming piece. This was followed by a premiere from Dulce Dance Company called Transcending Whole (photo).This male solo was electric and gripping. It exuded athleticism, yearning and tortured suffering. Costuming complimented the choreography and style.

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Dulce Dance Company’s “Transcending Whole”. (Photo credit: Richard Brusky)

Special mention of the lighting by the theatre lighting designer must be made. Each piece was uniquely and thoughtfully lit.  The transitions and designs gave each dance piece its own world and ecosystem.  The lighting did exactly what it should – framed the dancers in mood-appropriate aura.

Las Vegas Dance Ensemble presented a premiere also, C’est Notre Temp. This vivacious piece had a lyrical, balletic style. It was spritely and lively and very enjoyable. Concert Dance Company offered an earthy, old-world and pioneer feel in its Boarder Crossings.

Wight Noise Dance Company presented Beauty from the Ashes, a large group number with a contemporary style and notably interesting formation changes. The same company presented Journey, a male duet with an excellent flowing style and great energy that was very uplifting. The lighting was wonderful.

Movement Theatre CoLab offered a lovely, edgy, science-fictiony duet in Visions & Vortices for Two ver 1. The lighting was artistically haunting. Each pose was a portrait unto itself. The style was robotic yet sinuous. The dancers’ great technique and partnering prowess were enhanced by their interconnectedness. They also offered Traces of Self which showcased great interactive choreography and solid technique.

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“Visions and Vortices For Two ” by Movement Theatre CoLab. (Photo credit: Richard Brusky)

Canyon Movement Company surprised and delighted the audience with a comedic piece about the frustrations of waiting…and waiting….and waiting… in a doctor’s office garbed only in a dignity-depleting hospital gown. What fun can a dancer have with a rolling exam stool that spins and rises and falls and a flowing gown that flaps in the wind?  A lot! Exam Room humanized the long, cold wait for health care. It was charming, and the dancers showed their joy to great effect.  This writer can’t wait to do a spinning fan kick on a rolling stool at the next doctor’s visit! courtesy of Sean Openshaw Photography. Please give him the credit.  The picture is Gina Darlington in Exam Room by Canyon Movement Company.

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Gina Darlington in “Exam Room” by Canyon Movement Company. (Photo courtesy of Sean Openshaw)

Diane McNeal Hunt/ELEVATE Danceworks presented I Gave My Heart, a beautiful smoothly-danced solo that was simple, clear and precise. Turiya Chavez offered a timely piece The Many, which began with sound bites of a certain politician repeating “Billions and billions”. Dancers in business attire embodied chaotic yet robotic strength. Cat & Fish Dancers’ Micah Burkhardt performed a solo Soft Front that showcased his limber, dynamic style, and highlighted his smooth yet powerful movement. Rat Race by DMJ Dance Collective featured a large group in green costumes using balloons that had minds of their own. The dancers had terrific technique and synchrony. The piece was sharply and cleanly executed.

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“Rat Race” by DMJ Dance Collective 

Jaricco Dance presented PULSE, a suite with sections named Connected, Hope and Inner Pulse. This piece had simply marvelous dancing with consistent attack and precision right through the demanding choreography until the last second. The choreography and performance were intricately sophisticated, and presented with virtuosic technique that made it easy for the audience to get lost in the magic.

Many gracious thanks to Kelly Roth, Dance Program Head of CSN and Artistic Director of Kelly Roth & Dancers and Concert Dance Company, who keeps the festival running and fresh every year. In answer to your musings in your program note – you bring more healing to the world than you know.

Grade: A+++

Audience: all ages

Contemporary West Dance Theatre Triumphs Again

(Saturday Feb 7, 2018 at Charleston Heights Arts Center, Las Vegas.)

Contemporary West Dance Theatre blazed back into the hearts and minds of Las Vegas in their inspired performance at the Grand Re-Opening of the Charleston Heights Arts Center.

This dance group brings the highest level of dance performance to the intimate stages of Las Vegas, time after soaring time. Their performances are singularly breath-taking and awe-inspiring.  The physicality evidenced in each moment of movement proves that superhumans do walk among us. Their performances are not simply dance; they are art on a cellular and existential level, art that has the power to rewire tech-overloaded brains to absorb the wonder and miracle of movement expression. Contemporary West rescues and resurrects our yearning and humanity.

Contemporary West

“Dreamtime” was a standout piece. Haunting in both movement and lighting, it pulsed with a techno-musical base, overlaid by sinewy, robotic, explosive, and utterly unique movement vocabulary that evoked both primitive and sophisticated stages of human prehistory.   Suffused with a primeval energy that brimmed with primal emotions of fear, desperation, and stoicism, the dancers moved as a flock or nimble herd — perfectly in synch, yet without interaction. Raptor and bird-like animal movement interwrapped with the artifice and control of hieroglyphic-style body profiles and poses. Wild, untamed hair and tattered animal-skin body coverings crafted an aboriginal presence.  “Dreamtime” is a timeless, astounding work of art.

“Take 5” brought us back to the 20th Century, dropping us into the middle of a steamy 1950s,  rock-and-roll/Motown youth culture. With the ladies in print dresses, and the men in suspenders and fedora hats, this period piece explored the highs, lows, and fickleness of romantic flirtation and passions. It was a upbeat, slightly gritty study of youthful lust and impetuousness. The dancers demonstrated full investment in their characters, never allowing a second to go by without embodying individual emotion. “Take 5” satisfyingly told the story of modern men and women weaving their ways through intense social interactions, and the losses and wins inherent in the process.

Contemporary West’s ballet-length pieces are a balm to the tech-weary soul, healing food for screen-strained eyes. The perfection of technique and performance quality of the dancers is extraordinary. This company is a veritable living treasure of Las Vegas.

Also of Note: Charleston Height Arts Center is a newly-remodeled community arts center, hosting classes in dance and arts, an art gallery, big band dances, and a beautiful, intimate proscenium theatre. Having anchored the Las Vegas arts scene since its opening 40 years ago, The Charleston Heights Arts Center continues to house and nurture the performing arts. Watch for performances scheduled there; they are chosen carefully by the staff ,and always of excellent quality. You’ll fall in love with the arts all over again!

Audience: All Ages

Rating: A++++++++

Lighting & Sound: A+++

Spirited Cast Whisks Us “Into the Woods”

High energy suffused every character and moment during opening night of Broadway Bound’s “Into the Woods”. This company of teen actors continued its legacy of thespian quality far exceeding the apparent age and experience of each cast member, and delivered a polished product of near professional level. into-the-woods-2

The company’s performance obviously reflects the knowledgeable guidance of its adult production team: Michael Vojvodich (director), Alex Cheney (musical director), Ashley Oblad (choreographer). The quality of the vocalists surprised and delighted from the first moment and through the entire show. The singing and acting brought Sondheim’s music and Lapine’s book to vivid life, memorably impressing every audience member— exemplified by the youngsters gamboling around the courtyard in circles during intermission, gleefully singing “Into the woods! Into the woods!” A production that brings such immediate joy to even the youngest audience members is truly a gift to the community.

Production values rivaled anything seen in Las Vegas. Costumes were chosen and styled to perfection. Wigs were bold and symbolic; prosthetics were excellent. The sets were visually magnificent: the opening set was minimalistic, using a variety of textures to aptly indicate various locales; the main set featured a fantastic backdrop as well as lush, dark, yet luminous sets. The staging was effective and clear. Choreography fit the style, mood, and story line.

into-the-woodsIndividual performances were very enjoyable. Each character exuded such vivaciousness, focus, and commitment that it was easy to get swept away in the story and mood. The quiet moments were touching. Each actor was charming and engaging. Comedic timing was sharp and sophisticated, using silence and delays to great effect.  Of special mention was the comedy of the angry, prodding witch, the princes, and the Narrator; and Cinderella’s vocals.

The overall sense of jubilance, fun, and snappy timing in this show will delight attendees of all ages and backgrounds.

Audience: all ages

Rating: A

Dance in the Desert 2015: A Delicious Buffet of Modern Dance

The 17th Annual Dance in the Desert is a scrumptious buffet of elite dance companies showcasing classic modern and artistic dance. Multiple dance companies from around the region and country are gathering at Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center this weekend to share their repertoire with Las Vegas.

Opening night was a hearty offering of traditional modern dance mixed with contemporary and fusion styles. This is a classic dance festival, with the focus on choreography and the dancers—a clean, bare, set-less stage with intense lighting, minimal backdrops, and simply great dancing.

Fixed Perfection, Shadows was an iconic number. It began with a solo dancer, bound in a straight jacket, who repeated verbal phrases frequently heard in dance classes that urge dancers to kick higher, work harder, dance more perfectly. The soloist’s ramblings built into a frenzy, until she screamed “I have to be perfect! Somebody tell me I’m perfect!” Her monologue completely captured the repetition and torture and pressure that dancers endure for their art, and the implanted neuroticism that urges them on while sometimes becoming their undoing. Self-loathing perfectionism amidst all the created beauty. The cruel truth is—a dancer can never be perfect. Beauty, Insanity. Dance.

"Interactions" by MAC & Company
“Interactions” by MAC & Company

 Wright Noise featured strong lines and formations, with an almost military feel in its attack and discipline. An EKG-style design, projected behind the dancers, imparted a pulse-like undercurrent to the number, mirroring the urgency of the movement.

"The Eve Complex" by Dulce Dance Company
“The Eve Complex” by Dulce Dance Company

Silent told a tragic story of a woman wrongfully imprisoned told through lyrical, heart-felt choreography,

“Sanitas” by Kelly Roth & Dancers

Kelly Roth’s Sanitas was a brightly-lit narrative with clever partnering, live violinist and pianist, and a joyful feel.

 Wind: 3 by 2 featured 3 duets with entrancing interaction and chemistry between the partners. This sweet, flowing number had intricate partnering that was mesmerizing.

“Def.i.(d)ance” by JarricoDance

 

The closing number, Def.i(d)ance was perfectly placed in the program. 7 dancers in plain black 2-piece outfits brought heavy-hitting rhythms and choreography to the stage. Both the movement and music had a tribal feel, with a hip hop edge and attack. Defiance was the defining emotion. This number was a feast for the senses and left the audience cheering. A perfect, strong, rollicking ending to the night.

With free admission and an intimate, comfortable venue, this dance festival is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered by arts-lovers in Las Vegas. If you want a taste of New York-style modern dance, here it is. Las Vegas is very lucky to have Dance in the Desert.

Rating: A+

Audience: all ages

Creeptastic Kookiness Abounds in “Addams Family”

An outstanding, unforgettable, and thoroughly enjoyable showing of The Addams Family” exploded on the beautifully-appointed stage of the Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center. Opening night of the Broadway Bound production burst out of the opening gate with hilarity, dazzling vocal talent, snappy dialogue, stunning sets, and costume perfection. One might never guess the tender age of the cast, based on their talent and remarkable performances. They truly lived up to the name of the company, exhibiting the skills and moxie that just might take them all the way to The Big Apple. (And if not, Las Vegas would be lucky to have them as part of our burgeoning theatre stable)

Broadway Bound's "Addams Family" at Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center.
Broadway Bound’s “Addams Family” at Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center.

Many of the actors turned in striking performances. Gomez (Jackson Langford) was riveting in his accent, mannerisms, timing, and expression. His was a must-see performance, for any theatre-goer in the Valley. Morticia Addams (Suzanne Fife) exuded languid sultriness. Wednesday Addams (Rachel Martinez) deadpanned her crack-up lines with pure commitment. Uncle Fester (Andy Lawell) gamboled with the glee of the ghoulish uncle. Lurch (Alix Locke-Wells) delivered his guttural assertions with underplayed sublimity. Grandma Addams (Sierra Gregg) impressively adopted severely geriatric posture and diction.

Multiple group dance numbers featured swirling, effective formations and uncluttered choreography. The ensemble performed the diverse choreography confidently and cleanly.   A tango number was sharp, stylish, and dramatic. Both in the scenes and dance numbers, there were many terrific photo moments that provoked an itch to pull out a camera and snap away. The book was delightful, brimming with gratifying character development, and breezily addressed perennial topics such as the meaning of life, love, and relationships.

One of the many memorable moments of Broadway Bound's "Addams Family" at Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center.
One of the many memorable moments of Broadway Bound’s “Addams Family” at Summerlin Library & Performing Arts Center.

The show was great fun, spooktacularly entertaining, and first-rate in production value.

Not. To. Be. Missed.

Rating: A++

Audience: All ages.

Yoomi Lee Voted Best Ballerina in Las Vegas

Congratulations to Yoomi Lee of Las Vegas Ballet Company for being voted “Best Ballerina” of 2013 in Las Vegas by readers of Desert Companion Magazine!

Her elegance has graced the stages of Las Vegas for more than a dozen years, and brought the love of ballet to countless students at Kwak Ballet Academy. Having written about Lee and her husband in a previous blog, it is a pleasure to congratulate her on her well-deserved recognition by the community!

Yoomi Lee and Kydong Kwok
Yoomi Lee and Kyodong Kwak