“Wisdom” & Other Dances at CSN
By: Hal de Becker
The College of Southern Nevada’s fall dance concert at Horn Theatre featured “Wisdom” a celebration of the life of Princess Diana choreographed by Kelly Roth artistic director and head of CSN’s dance program.Some of the performers, including Mr. Roth, were faculty members and students of the dance department.
I suspect that to fully appreciate “Wisdom” one would have to have more knowledge of the Princess Diana saga than I possess.However, with input from my better-informed daughter, Belinda, and the help of extensive, lucid, often amusing program notes, I recognized the characters and events and could follow the plot – most of the time.
The choreographer took a ‘total theater’ approach to the piece, employing pantomime, dance action, symbolism, projections and emblematic costumes and scenic designs to convey Diana’s story from childhood to royalty and, with artistic license, her ultimate deification in Heaven.
Portrayed in the work were many of the contemporaries with whom she interacted during her brief lifetime.Included were her husband Prince Charles and his second wife, the ‘other’ woman, Camilla Bowles; Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Royal Family; the performer composer Elton John; and the ubiquitous paparazzi.
Diana’s tragic death occurred in 1997.Depicted in the production were the careers of certain others who died the same year. These included Mother Teresa performing good works and the mass, one-way-only, beam up -- via vodka and barbiturates -- of Marshall Applewhite and his Heaven’s Gate cult followers.Their ‘departure’ aboard a cartoonish space craft attested to Mr. Roth’s flair for the delightfully outrageous.
“Wisdom” presented many artistic challenges most of which Mr. Roth over-came.He portrayed much of the dark, complex life story with choreographic clarity and well placed humor.However, it was presented in 14 separate episodes which at times undermined continuity and slowed down the pace of a work already inclined to be overlong.The 30 member cast acquitted itself well.
Of the program’s six solo dances three were impressive, especially “The Art of Sunbathing” by Cynthia DuFault.This was a stylish spoof charmingly and skillfully performed by the choreographer.Her skirt-like ‘bathing costume’ was reminiscent of the 1920’s as were the music and radio announcer accompaniments.Among its many memorable moments occurred when she spread suntan lotion on her arm with her other hand and on her leg with her other foot.Now that’s really multi-tasking.
Samantha Ferido and Lorenzo Valoy gave strong performances in their respective solos choreographed by Marko Westwood. Her dancing was distinguished by lyricism, his by virility and both showed a sharp sense of musicality.
Mr. Westwood’s vigorous “Unbounded” was well-danced by Onishia Murillo, Ms. Ferida, Mr. Valoy and the choreographer.Ms. Murillo and Mr. Westwood joined forces once again in his duet “Still Moving Forward” in which they portrayed a couple arguing from opposite ends of a table.By the end of the dance they were on top of the table and holding hands, their dispute apparently resolved.
“Bunches” choreographed and performed by Leslie Kremer Roth and Jaime Velilla
was composed ofa series ofintertwined body configurations.The concert closed with a lively ensemble dance, “All You Need”, set to Beatles music by Mr. Roth.The dancers were adorned in splendiferous curly blonde wigs and seemed to be having fun.Always, a good sign.
Local dance lovers take note:Las Vegas’s two major institutions of learning, CSN and UNLV, both have excellent dance departments that regularly present outstanding performances at affordable ticket prices.CSN’s schedule is on line at www.csn.edu/finearts/dance.