SPRING DANCE CONCERT AT CSN
By: Hal de Becker
The high point of Artistic Director Kelly Roth’s Spring Dance Concert at College of Southern Nevada’s Nicholas Horn Theatre, was a work entitled ‘Impermanence’ -- a condition that’s not likely to be the work’s fate.
Masterfully choreographed by Cynthia DuFault and inspired by a Robert Frost poem on the transitory beauty of nature, the dance will, of course, have permanence in CSN’s student dance repertoire. However, this high caliber choreography could also grace the stage of professional dance companies.
The work began with eight dancers in dark costumes encircling a woman in white (a nod, perhaps, to Stravinsky’s ‘Rite of Spring’). At the end, after passing through various stages of nature’s inevitable cycle from bloom to decay, the dancers returned to the opening configuration in an affirmation of rebirth.
The choreography’s sense of resignation, control and sacerdotal stateliness created a mystical aura. Certain key moves and poses were repeated but were never repetitious. They acted as a thread running through the dance to evoke the continuity that nature herself possesses.
The music, for cello and vocals, was by Torlief Thedeem, Meredith Monk and Yo-Yo Ma. The different sources were tastefully utilized resulting in a compelling and aesthetically acceptable score to which the choreographer was fully and insightfully responsive.
Christina Stockdale portrayed the lady in white, and what a beautiful dancer she is. Her long slender arms, expressive hands, natural grace and classical technique were judiciously used by the choreographer. Ms. Stockdale could not have wished for a better vehicle in which to display her formidable gifts.
All the dancers gave outstanding performances, especially DuFault, Carrie Lee Miles, Christopher Legget and Danny Mendoza.
Projections, suggestive at times of a thorny thicket and at others the arabesque designs of Persian carpets, were highly effective as was the atmospheric lighting.
‘Sanitas’, choreographed by Mr. Roth, is Latin for “health or sanity”. ‘Insanitas’ might have been a more appropriate title for this delightfully wacky, ingenious piece set in a 19th century sanitarium.
Roth, looking handsome and trim, danced stylishly as did DuFault, Miles, Mendoza, Shelby Lavin and Natalia Stratton. They were accompanied impeccably by violist Tobias Roth and pianist Voltaire Verzosa in the Brahms Viola Sonata # 2
It was a light-hearted, but not light-weight work. Based, sort of, on familiar ballet steps, Roth’s flow of humorous, imaginative ideas for using (or misusing) them seemed endless. Balletic leg raises became instruments for kicking colleagues; partnering a ballerina resulted in arm twisting; pointing a toe would send a large beach ball across the stage.
But the fun was not mere spoof. The moves and devises were like a new intricate dance language, well thought out and musical, which at first seemed wacky but eventually made perfect sense to me. Or am I going insanitas?
Roth also choreographed ‘Mini Me: Stravinsky Dances’ which, in addition to the wonderful music, provided some good choreography and dancing, splendid projections of Picasso and Benois paintings and a delicious montage of the composer’s photos and quotes.
For me the highlight was ‘Elegy’ for solo dancer and violist. As far as I know, it was an unprecedented pairing of a father and son, dancer and musician, performing together.
Roth danced the solo while his son Tobias, on stage, provided a virtuoso performance of the music. It was billed as a tribute to the late dancer and choreographer Murray Louis, a former mentor of the elder Roth.
Roth’s version of the ballet ‘Petrushka’, shortened to eleven minutes, concluded the Stravinsky segment. There was no attempt to imitate the 1911 original though the essence of the plot remained: Three puppets come to life and two of them, the brutal Moor and the simple rag-doll Petrushka, vie for the affections of the Ballerina.
Ms. Miles danced skillfully as Ballerina; Leggett was appropriately fierce as Moor; and Sean Craig Stuart made an adequate Petrushka. Noah Gannon was a standout as the drunken Russian dancer.
Lighting and particularly the sets were exceptional.
Shelby Brown choreographed a pleasant duet, ‘Exhale’, for two girls who pluckily, but prematurely, performed it on pointe. She also gave a dramatic reading of a sensitive poem she’d composed.
‘Zoom Squad: Modern Dance Emergency!!!’ by Roth was “Based on a true story” the subject of which I was unable to elicit from the routine choreography.
Costuming throughout the production was outstanding. Ms. DuFault is credited with creating every costume for every number while somehow finding time to also choreograph ‘Impermanence’-- a testament to her stamina as well as her talent.