Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater Age Five
By Hal de Becker
For its 5th anniversary, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater (LVCDT) presented three performances at West Las Vegas Library Theater.LVCDT was founded locally by Bernard H. Gaddis and Charmaine Hunter, two talented dancer/choreographers.
The program’s featured work was “Vespers” by the late Ulysses Dove.Mr. Dove was a gifted American dancer and choreographer whose demise in 1996 at the early age of 49 was a tragic loss to the contemporary dance scene.
I admire other works by Mr. Dove far more than I do “Vespers”.Despite its intensity, I’ve always found it stiff and repetitive, as much pantomime as dance, and LVCDT’s performance didn’t change anything.
Six women attending a church service squabble and even come to blows. Yet, at the dance’s end, and in apparent harmony, they sit next to each other on a row of chairs their disputes seemingly resolved -- at least for the moment.
Mikel Rousse’s percussive almost vocal accompaniment effectively suggested an ongoing forceful sermon.
The women wore black knee-length dresses which they carefully kept from rising up on their legs. The contradiction and implied hypocrisy of their lady-like concern, while arguing and grappling, was an insightful and effective choreographic touch.
The performances were just adequate, except for Nadjana Chandra’s.Her stage presence and professionalism were conspicuous, consistent and welcome.
“Brethren”, choreographed by Mr. Gaddis to music mostly by Arvo Part and Samuel Barber, opened to a dazzling star-studded backdrop.
Eight men, including the choreographer, wore long white skirts that gave an impression of angels.A ninth man, his loins wrapped in a white cloth, appeared to be a Christ figure.The visual picture was impressive.
The choreography successfully evoked religious paintings and sculpture from the Italian Renaissance.In one poignant picture, a group of dancers, beautifully lit from above, were posed kneeling together, arms reaching upwards, pleading.
Three crucifixions were sensitively portrayed by two dancers lifting a third aloft and holding him there, arms spread apart.
The choreography frequently called for classical ballet moves but, with the exception of Mr. Gaddis, Roman Pantoja and Caine Keenan as the Christ-like figure, the dancers failed to execute it with the beauty and technical accuracy it deserved.And at times they were also out of sync with one another.
A duet from “Metamorphosis”, a work in progress by Mr. Gaddis, was performed by the choreographer and Christopher McKenzie.
The choreography had a strong masculinity with lifts and poses that artistically displayed the dancers’ handsomefigures.The brief excerpt augured well for the complete work.
The program closed with Mr. Gaddis’ “Mood Indigo” to music by Duke Ellington and Dave Brubeck.In the past, with its upbeat jazzy ballroom moves and lyrical balletic quality, it had been a delightful dance.
This time, however, the dance suffered from the uneven abilities and limitations of many of the dancers, especially on the distaff side. Ill-defined body lines, sloppy feet and not always being together gave the piece a sophomoric look.
Perhaps, they were tired: Many of the dancers hold other jobs.There were also a number of ‘new faces’ belonging to dancers who may need more time to assimilate and become better acquainted with the repertoire.
On display in the theater lobby were superb photographs of some of the troupe’s dancers by photographer Jason James Skinner.The beautiful photos promised more than the company was able to deliver.
Mr. Gaddis’ own theatrical charisma and superior dancing seem to be the troupe’s best and, perhaps, only distinctive asset – at least for now.