RE-DOING WITH ReDun
By: Hal de Becker
What do Jane Fonda and M. Samela Dingus have in common? Both are passionate supporters of the concept that many dancers and other performers near or over the age of 40 still possess the talent and skills needed to continue practicing their chosen professions.
Ms. Dingus, who produced (and performed in) The ReDun Dancers Project at Summerlin Library Theater introduced her show with a short film of Ms. Fonda advocating support for those more mature artists and pointing out that today’s life expectancy is 34 years longer than it was for our great-grand parents and therefore artists’ performing-lives have also been extended.
‘ReDun’ was presented in a revue format that featured 20 dancers, two singers and five musicians although most of the songs and dances used recorded accompaniment.
The program opened with a lyrical neo-classic duet from The Glory choreographed by Kyudong Kwak to music by J.S. Bach and performed by Mr. Kwak and Yoomi Lee. It was a sensitive, romantic piece but a surprising choice for an opener -- a position usually assigned to a flashy ensemble.
Despite the odd placement and poor lighting, the husband and wife team gave an exquisite performance. They are co-founders and principal dancers of Las Vegas Ballet Company and recently presented Act III of Sleeping Beauty at the same library venue.
Four members of the California based troupe Movement of Agape offered three delightful and original dances that were performed in colorful costumes of flowing chiffon robes and scarves. They were choreographed for church services that can be seen Sundays on Live Stream at agapelive.com.
Other pleasing dances included a Brazilian style piece with four ladies in gaily colored skirts and wearing flowers in their hair.Another foursome performed a spoof on old- style burlesque with the usual trimmings of chairs, tassels, bumps and grinds.
J.J. Johnson, who toured throughout the USA and Europe as background vocalist for Mother’s Finest and has performed in Las Vegas at the Mirage and Harrahs resorts, offered a set of R & B and Gospel songs. Her strong voice and heartfelt renditions drew warm ovations.
Sandy Kastel delivered upbeat song styles which were also well received. In addition to performing, she hosts a daily radio show on KLAV that promotes local entertainers and artists of all genres.She is the founder of Women in Music and Arts.
Saxophone virtuoso, Jammin’ Joe Johnson, provided a solo session that drew enthusiastic applause.
The show’s rousing finale began with a veritable concert by four masterful drummers on conga and other percussion instruments: Hasani Palacio, L. A. Austin, Sam Wright and Kendel McDonald.
Mr. Palacio began drumming over 20 years ago as accompanist for an African dance class. Ms. Austin has performed internationally with and for Eubie Blake, Wynton Marsalis, Oprah Winfrey and Nelson Mandela. I have no information on Mr. McDonald who was a last minute replacement for the ailing drum and spiritual master Idris Hester. Mr. Wright is a long-time member of Olabisi African Dance Ensemble and a graduate of UNLV.
They were joined by seven dancers from ‘Olabisi’ attired in eye-filling flowered skirts, dresses and bandanas. Their dancing was richly ethnic and filled with joyousness and humor.An amusing moment was when an elderly lady, bent and with one hand soothing her back, hobbled towards the drummers and suddenly, under their rhythmic spell, burst into dance free of all pain and worry.
The drummers frequently produced a sound resembling a full orchestra.Their rapport with the dancers was of such oneness that it was impossible to tell which had come first the choreography or the music.An improvised section at the end was especially exciting
Unfortunately, the printed program, although attractive, didn’t provide dancers’ casting or choreographic credits so it wasn’t possible to name many of the deserving artists.
This was Ms. Dingus’ first local production and, although not without flaws, it was often entertaining and hopefully she’ll follow it with more shows featuring 40-year-young performers.