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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
“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!
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.
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.
Individual 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.
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.
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.
Silent told a tragic story of a woman wrongfully imprisoned told through lyrical, heart-felt choreography,
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.
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.
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)
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.
The show was great fun, spooktacularly entertaining, and first-rate in production value.
Super Summer Theatre’s “The Music Man” premiered with visual and musical glory that rivaled the golden sunset itself.
The timeless and well-known story was brought to life by Huntsman Entertainment’s high production values and astounding investment in the visual elements, which framed and matched the musical talent endemic in the cast.
The costumes were beautiful in design, construction, and materials. Constant costumes changes gave a fresh and eye-inspiring feel to every scene. The opening black-and-white palette gave way to an explosion of color half-way through the show. The costumes were intricately designed, down to bloomers under the skirts.
The detailed sets were a feast of turn-of-the-century colors, shades, and architectural detailing. The huge backdrop channeled antique parchment, while the bridge’s sculptured-stone façade was perfectly convincing, as were the portals’ faux-brick treatment.
The choreography was lively and well-rehearsed. Parts closely resembled the movie choreography, and all were nicely staged and exciting to watch.
There were many charming moments in the show that make it very memorable (they won’t be revealed here).
This was a classic presentation of a timeless, family-friendly musical, with production values far beyond what one would dream of in a community production; that is the magic that so many wonderful theatrical groups bring to Las Vegas, now including Huntsman Entertainment. This show splendidly brought the joy of musical theater to the Super Summer Theatre audience.
A crowd awash in gowns, victory rolls, sequins, feathers, rhinestones, glittery neckties and tuxedos swept into the Orleans Hotel for the annual Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender. Audience members and performers from around the globe gathered to celebrate glamour, beauty, and the art of the tease. This annual Las Vegas event hosts some of the most creative, artistic, and original performing seen at any time of the year in Las Vegas. Burlesque is alive and well, and this weekend shares its seductive, naughty, and comedic best with the world.
The third night’s “Tournament of Tease” featured current acts vying for best in their category, as well as the contest for the new Miss Exotic World. Various acts highlighted classic stripteases, innovative ideas, and special skills such as acrobatics, fans, reverse-strips, and butterfly skirts.
In the “Best Debut” category, Elektra Cute wowed the audience with her Art Deco-era style and mystery. The drama in her expression was riveting, and her costume pieces were elegant, flapper-inspired works of art.
Eliza Delite brought her creative Pope-inspired act, starting in Victorian-era robes and crown, then disrobing into a beautiful gold cape which she manipulated in beautiful butterfly-movement using embedded sticks. She evoked the image of one of the first motion-picture-captured dancers in silent films, who turned in a circle as she fluttered beautiful fabric wings. Ms. Delite was regal and old-Hollywood retro.
Lady Borgia started with nice fan work that ended too soon, but transitioned to very nice dancing using her flowing dress teasingly.
Laurie Hagen presented a reverse strip that also attempted to give the feeling of movement done in reverse. Her jerky movements were foreign to this art’s normally beautiful and graceful style, but was an interesting variation.
In the “Best Group” category, Swing Time presented a comedic take on a threesome with great boylesque and nice group sculptures. They won their category.
Burlesque artist Lou Lou D’Vil won the crown of Miss Exotic World, Queen of Burlesque with her classic, elegant striptease and ermine-dripping costume.
While the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekender is not for all ages, it presents an expressive art form that is enjoying a well-deserved revival. Especially in a city of raunchy strip clubs and nightclubs, it is a welcome breath of beauty, camaraderie, and glamour.
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.
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.
At the helm of the dance program at College of Southern Nevada (CSN) since 1995, Kelly Roth has introduced the community college crowd to New-York style performance, and welcomed new dancers of all backgrounds to his classes and performances. Here are excerpts of a conversation we had recently.
Andrea: What are the greatest changes you’ve seen or made happen since you took charge of the dance program at CSN [formerly Community College of Southern Nevada]?
Kelly Roth: Our enrollment in the program has gone from 125 students to 600. We’ve added an annual festival concert, “Dance in the Desert”. We’ve introduced more formal training classes in ballet and modern dance technique. The emphasis of the program has been changed to teaching dance as an art form, instead of as a form of exercise. When you study dance as an art form, there are a lot of ancillary subjects that contribute to your understanding of what art is. I feel that this results in a more well-rounded education for students, as it exposes them to a broader array of topics.
The dance program offerings have also been modified in the last 15 years to offer multiple levels of technique in ballet and modern, and we added a dance performance class which anyone could take, anyone who wanted to perform. We added Concert Dance Company, which people had to audition for, and that enabled us to have a consistent group of people to work with. Some of those people stayed in the company for 8 years. We’ve had a consistent core of male dancers in the Company for a long time, which makes us the envy of every small company in the valley.
We focus on the Alwin Nikolais/Murray Louis technique more than other Las Vegas dance programs do. It teaches elements of time, motion, shape, space, and dynamics – the degree of release of energy. Those are things you can apply to any form of dance because all forms of dance are composed of those elements. So that’s a unique emphasis that we have here [at CSN].
The “Dance in the Desert” (DitD) festival is unique to our academic program because UNLV doesn’t have a dance festival. At CSN, we can do large, expansive works, since we have fewer choreographers to accommodate on a single program, due to our smaller faculty. We could even do evening-length works, if we wanted to, or three different works with two intermissions. This would be more like the New York dance scene, instead of the 2-3 minute pieces that many other concerts are doing these days. Longer programs help students learn that dance is an art, like opera, and not just a passing image or short segment, like dance in videos and on competitive TV shows is, so often.
DitD is also unique to us in that it brings out-of-state companies here, which is great for the audience and for our CSN dancers, who can then see the trends that are out there and experience different choreographers.
A: Do you see growth or contraction in the recent Las Vegas performing arts scene?
KR: I don’t see growth. With the death of the Choreographer’s Showcase at Charleston Heights Arts Center, we lost a focal point, a good mix of genres, and the intermingling of professionals with college students. It went for 25 years, and then it ended. The management there said they were going to focus on single-company events, instead, but that never really happened, and now there’s no high-level dance performance there. And no real community-wide dance event for serious, original works at all in the city. At least, not one where college dancers and professionals from the Las Vegas Strip shows are on the same stage.
The Reed Whipple center used to host dance concerts, but not anymore.
The Smith Center is not going to have a small proscenium theater, either, that local companies could have used for performances. This is disappointing to small dance companies in town.
The other sign of decline is recent massive increases in the [Clark County] library theaters’ rental fees. When I first got to town, I was amazed that libraries had these great little theaters that were available to the public at very affordable prices for non-profits. It was really terrific. But now that they’ve hiked their fees considerably [due to the state’s and county’s economic woes] it leaves most independent small companies without a real theater to perform in. Companies like Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, Las Vegas Ballet Company, and Marko Westwood have no place to go now.
The most affordable venue may be CSN’s Horn Theater. It’s a terrific space. It’s a 524-seat proscenium theater with full lighting and sound systems. It has kept its rates down and is available to the public. It may soon be hard to get a booking there, since the schedule is filling up.
A: What is the mission of the CSN dance program?
KR: The short version of the mission statement of the CSN dance program is that we see dance as one of the many art forms that humanizes our society and that plays a very strong role in education.
KR: Well, it’s hard to really understand what’s going on sometimes. The figures are constantly changing. So far, there’s a 2.5% cut in salaries, and there may be an additional 2.5% cut next year, which affects all faculty. The performance budget is always up in the air.
I’ve produced dance concerts in all kinds of economic circumstances. It’s been said that after a nuclear holocaust, the roaches and the dancers will be the only ones crawling out from under the rubble; that’s how tenacious dancers are when they want to perform. So, I’m used to doing what I can with what I have. The Fine Arts Department has been really generous with us so far, and that’s really helped us out. Friends of the Horn is a group that gives us a lot of support. DitD Festival sincerely appreciates the consistent support provided by the Nevada Arts Council, which has made an important difference throughout the years.
For some of our grants, we have to find matching funds, so private donors have been a saving grace for us. Sometimes this doesn’t come through, though, and we’ve had to cancel some guest artists due to budget shortfalls.