By: Hal de Becker
UNLV’s Department of Dance and College of Fine Arts recently presented “Let’s Dance” an ambitious program of classical and contemporary works at Judy Bayley Theatre.
On opening night some members of the audience repeatedly screamed and howled their appreciation at the dancers while they were performing.Theater staff should have told the offenders to control themselves or leave.
That the dancers were university students was no excuse for such a disturbance.The production was not a sophomoric amateur effort but one consisting of well trained, accomplished dancers performing the works of highly respected guest choreographers including, among others, Charmaine Hunter former ballerina of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Bernard Gaddis currently principal dancer for Cirque du Soleil and former principal in the Alvin Ailey company, and James Jeon director of South Korea’s Seoul Ballet Theatre.
The program opened with Ms. Hunter’s “The Suite”, a classical ballet for six ladies and three men set to an appealingly danceable score by Edvard Grieg.The ladies, all on pointe, and the men, executing double air turns and multiple pirouettes, performed the challenging but cheerful choreography with aplomb. Marissa Mendoza’s white costumes of fitted tunics and short fluffy skirts were among the concert’s best.
“Flux”, by Mr. Gaddis, was also a classical ballet but a parody of the form -- and possibly of the film “Black Swan”.It began with two dancers whose movements suggested puppets, an allusion perhaps to the control that ballet technique imposes on its devotees.
The couple was joined by a corps de ballet in droopy greenish tu tus and a ‘Prima Ballerina’ in an elegant black one who, like the others, danced in bare feet.For all its spoofing it made some astute observations on the envy and competitiveness often found in the real world of dance.
Jaleesa Staten’s “On 3”, to two luscious cello compositions by Wendy Sutter and Phillip Glass, was, to this viewer, the production’s best piece in contemporary style.The choreography exuded creative confidence and conceptual clarity.The result was a work that, though theme-less, had a sense of progression that sustained interest and was a pleasure to watch.
Costuming, by Ms. Mendoza, Ms. Staten and Jennifer Schieck, was rich in the simplicity of white loin cloths and half tops that didn’t overshadow the dancing as garishly colored robes and scarfs did elsewhere in the program.
Attesting to the ever-expanding skills of UNLV’s dancers, most of the program’s choreographies, contemporary or otherwise, were grounded in classical ballet technique, and James Jeon’s “A Song of the Wind” was no exception.
‘Wind’ was a light hearted, abstract piece for 13 dancers whose bodies, from pointed toes to shrugging shoulders and bright facial expressions, captured the humor and vibrancy of the Vivaldi music. The inventive movements weren’t cluttered with the excessive arm waving, walking and crawling found in other works.
Despite exciting leaps and turns and a gifted on-stage drummer Vicki Baltimore Dale’s high energy “Sojourner III” seemed overloaded with steps, styles and ideas.
Other works on the program were contributed by Jarrett Rashad and Karola Luttringhaus.
The Dance department’s next concert, entitled “Last Dance” (I hope not!), takes place April 26, 27, 28.For more information call 895-3827.