“A Choreographers Showcase” A Cultural Collaboration
By Hal de Becker
Artists need tools to realize their visions. Composers need players, painters need paint, photographers need cameras, and choreographers need bodies -- ideally the trained bodies of professional dancers.They don’t always get them and even when they do they rarely get to present them at a venue offering spatial stages, special effects, and state of the art lighting and sound systems.
Those boons and more were recently made available to eleven young choreographers and dancers from Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil, when Aria Resort hosted “A Choreographers Showcase” in its plush Viva Elvis Theatre.
The production, an outgrowth of the ongoing artistic collaboration between ‘Cirque’ and NBT, presented ten original and impressively performed choreographies.Most were innovative, entertaining and artistically mature.(Any of the better works might grace NBT’s own repertoire at a time when the company often seems to depend upon guest artists and choreographers.)
“Making Sense of Movement,” by ‘Cirque’s’ Mukhtar O.S. Mukhtar, combined dance and poetic narration to convey the challenges facing those who are deaf and blind but who neverthelesswish to dance. It was a profoundly moving work which never resorted to clichés, mawkishness or predictable mime.By arousing the audience’s own sight and sound senses, Mr. Mukhtar enabled it to share something of the loss and courage experienced by the afflicted.The dance received a well-deserved sustained ovation.
NBT’s Krista Baker choreographed “Vindicate,” one of the program’s most polished and fully developed works.Balletic and lyrical in mood, it possessed unique harmony and symmetry demonstrated in part by the smooth passage of soloists into and out of the ensemble.
Mary LaCroix, an NBT soloist, provided “Apres Vous” which, despite the familiar ‘boy leaves girl’ theme, was movingly true-to-life in its depiction of the support a grieving ‘ex’ often receives from friends.A love duet was persuasive and the ensemble dances were shaped with outstanding musicality.
Though a bit long, NBT dancer Ashleigh Doede’s “The Vertical Hold” was effective with inventive movements that created strong dramatic impressions. Just one example was a lone woman dancing vigorously between two groups of dancers who, in extreme slow-motion, rolled and slithered down tri-level stages on each side of her.
Another NBT dancer, Kalin Morrow, created “Cue:Bow,”possibly a spoof ofthe robotic, angular movements often used (over-used?) in contemporary choreography.Whatever Ms. Morrow’s intention, “Cue’ was stylish, musically sensitive and filled with humor.Leigh Hartley, also of NBT, choreographed “Ascension,” a balletic and pleasingly romantic piece.
‘Cirque’s’ Greg Sample ‘delivered the goods’ with “Pressing Play,” a dance as full of sheer fun as a children’s playground on a sunny spring day. The piece was intended to remind adults that they should occasionally let go and act like kids again.With its abundant wit and insight, I suspect it succeeded.
Another ‘Cirque’ contribution was “Pra” (read prey) by Rommel Pacson.It lacked originality being too reminiscent of Ballet Folklorico de Mexico’s legendary deer dance with hunters pursuing a lone animal. Further, instead of antlers, Mr. Pacson’s animal was costumed in tights painted with large uneven spots resembling those worn in Nijinsky’s 1912 masterpiece, “L’Apres-midi d’un faune.”
“Glo,” by ‘Cirque’s’ Vanessa Convery, was an ambitious but tedious and confusing combination of live dance and cinema. The huge screen, with its filmed close-ups of faces, dwarfed the three dancers on the stage beneath it and rather than blending with them, distracted from them.
The show’s finale, “Dreams of Hope,” by ‘Cirque’s’ Hanifa Jackson and Isreal Gutierrez, featured an acro-adagio duo with a group of dancers moving fast and furiously around it.
This theatrical collaboration was part of Cirque du Soleil’s commitment in support of local art and artists.In addition to seeing a wonderful show, patrons, numbering about 1000 the day I attended, had the satisfaction of knowing that all the proceeds went to benefit Nevada Ballet Theatre.