By: Hal de Becker
Where were you Las Vegas Academy of the Performing Arts when my children were attending high school in Las Vegas? Yes, I know the Academy wasn’t established until 1993 and my three sons and daughter had graduated high school by then. But still, it would have been so nice……
Most Las Vegans know about the Academy, but not all of them may be aware of the excellent annual dance concerts its senior students provide. I didn’t know about them myself until I’d taught a few ballet classes there recently.
The Academy has its own Performing Arts Center, a 1400 seat venue on Clark Street between 9th and 10th that once served as the auditorium for Las Vegas High before that school moved elsewhere.
Since becoming a component of the Academy the theater has undergone extensive renovations that include easy access, comfortable seating, good sight lines and elaborate technical enhancements.
I recently attended the Academy Dance Department’s Fall Concert. It consisted of ten works performed by 250 talented, well trained and thoroughly rehearsed teenaged artists. It was a high caliber production choreographed at a professional level by the Academy’s six full time dance teachers.
Bottom Left to Right: Brook Dickerson, Tom Di Sabato, Jeneane Huggins. Top: Karen Tumbull, Kristine Keppel, Lisa Lazenby.
Every number utilized at least 35 dancers. Sometimes they would perform as one large ensemble and then separate into groups, crossing and weaving in interesting choreographic patterns before coming together again.
Movement wasn’t everything. There were also group poses that frequently resembled sculptured tableaux vivants andwhich wereso pleasing to the eye one might have wished for more time to study them.
In addition to a technical base of classical ballet the dancers were also skilled in the disciplines of various modern schools, as well as in jazz, lyrical and ballroom. (A lovely ballroom number opened the program.)
Whether portraying angelic figures in flowing white or ‘swinging’ sirens in red, the young ladies engaged their roles with appropriate sense of style, exceptional musicality and secure technique. And those who were required to execute fouette’ turns and other challenging steps did so cleanly and effortlessly.
Male athleticism and martial arts movements were put to good use in the choreographies. It was no surprise that the young men could leap and turn or that many had ‘six o’clock’extensions. What did surprise me was their unabashed willingness – courage even -- to be emotionally expressive and convey so convincingly aspects of love, longing, heartbreak and happiness.
The numbers were never too long and the program possessed an exciting ‘no-let-down’ pace. Imaginative lighting-effects and good tech support contributed to the smooth running production.
Anyone who cares about good dancing, or for that matter about good youngsters who also happen to be dancers, can take pride in attending and supporting the Las Vegas Academy Dance Department performances.