Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theatre: It’s Been Better
By Hal de Becker
In spite of consistently good dancing, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theatre’s Annual Spring Concert at West Las Vegas Library failed to attain the high level of its previous outings.Three of the program’s four offerings tainted the performance with a one dimensional quality due to the similarity in the somber mood of each as well as in the movement style and sometimes even the steps.Had the three pieces not been presented sequentially one right after the other the impression of sameness might have been less. If any of the three had a ‘meaning’ it was not communicated and none of them ended with clear resolution.
Miguel Perez’s “Emergence” fared best, possibly because it opened the concert and was viewed before the similarities between the three dances became pervasive.Nevertheless, his choreography had an appealing lyrical plasticity and was less aggressive and angular than some contemporary ballets.His use of the dancers, particularly in duos and trios, was always inventive and skillful.
“Portraits,” by Zane Booker, attempted to pay tribute in the language of dance to five contemporary figures including writer and fighter for women’s rights Gloria Steinem; gay and equal rights activist and author James Baldwin; and star performer, WW II resistance worker and civil rights campaigner Josephine Baker. It was a worthy project, but unfortunately the choreography conveyed little if anything about its subjects or what they represented and fought for. Even in George Balanchine’s ballet “Apollo” the three mythological muses have more substance and identity than “Portraits” transmitted to its modern real-life personages.
The best section of Bernard Gaddis’s “Sacrifus” was a dramatic trio in which a male love duet is witnessed by an anguished woman apparently in love with one of the men.When LVCDT presented the trio as an excerpt last February it was one of that concert’s highlights. It was the only highlight in the complete work for ten dancers as seen at the recent performance. Mr. Gaddis’s choreography for the ensemble dances was at times rewardingly sensitive to musical nuances, even silences.But too often the material was repetitious and sometimes tended toward the ordinary.
Despite their shortcomings the three choreographies were challenging and impressively performed by the dancers. The troupe’s technical foundations lie mostly in classical ballet, jazz and modern, and the dancers displayed a full range of ability in all three disciplines.
The program’s final offering, also by Mr. Gaddis, was “Phib” a cheerful work in which the dancers impersonated frogs.They wore wide green leggings and bulging goggles, and hopped about in second position plie (legs wide apart and deeply bent).It was an imaginative concept and often humorous but the undeviating hopping device eventually became tiresome. There was, however, a lovely segment in which two ‘frogs’ unexpectedly shed their leggings and stoodupright to perform a tender love duet in front of a star studded backdrop. It was a refreshing affirmation that all creatures deserve and are capable of Love.