MUSIC & DANCE AT WINCHESTER & UNLV
By: Hal de Becker
It was a weekend in which instrumental and vocal music combined with dance to deliver two exciting and very different programs at separate venues.
UNLV’s dance and music departments’ production ‘Movements and Tides’ at Judy Bayley Theatre, included a performance of Carl Orf’s ‘Carmina Burana’. At Winchester Cultural Center Oscar Carrescia’s ‘Tango Pasional’ featured dancers, singers and musicians from Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Tango Pasional was an elegant, hugely entertaining show that drew packed houses to each of its three performances.
The musical ensemble, ‘Orchestra Boedo’, named after a Buenos Aires barrio famed for its influence on tango culture, was conducted by Maestro Carrescia. It included six string players, some of whom are his current or former students.
One of Argentina’s most popular singers and recording artists, Liliana Dominguez, was a veritable torrent of passion in her dramatic interpretations of songs by the legendary Carlos Gardel and others.
Damian Rivero, grandson of Edmundo Rivero, another legendary tango singer, possessed the operatically strong, dark sound typical of the best tango singers. He also brought unique emotional intensity to his often poignant selections.
Three instrumentalists, pianist Valeria Ore, violinist Dmytro Nehrych and cellist Raymond Sicum, are known as ‘Trio Buenos Aires’ and are all virtuoso performers. Their moving rendition of Piazzolla’s ‘Inveirno Porteno’ was a standout as was Nehrych’s solo of a Jose Carli tango.
No tango show would be complete without a bandoneon artist and Tango Pasional presented an outstanding one. Richard Scofano’s solos and accompaniments on the small accordion-like instrument were captivating.
Rounding out the program was another tango essential, a dance couple. The position was filled by handsome Claudio Otero and beautiful Daniela Rosal. Their dances displayed the fiery twists, turns, deep lunges and rapid inter-twining leg movements that make tango so distinctive.
Decorative projections of the city of Buenos Aires and some of her famous tango performers provided a pleasingly visual backdrop.
Hopefully, Tango Pasional will return to the Winchester stage in the not too distant future.
The major work of Movement and Tides was a classical ballet set to Carl Orf’s ‘Carmina Burana’ choreographed by UNLV faculty members Dolly Kelepecz-Momo and Clarice Geissel-Rathers.
Both ladies are no strangers to ballet. Their combined credits include stints with European and American ballet companies among them Nevada Ballet Theatre.
‘Carmina’ premiered in Germany in 1937 and is the composer’s best known work. It is a cantata based on 12th century poems dealing mostly with lust and other bawdy and deliberately irreligious themes. Over the years it’s been scored for various instrumental ensembles one of which was used for UNLV’s performance.
The production involved 18 dancers, two pianists, six percussionists, five vocal soloists and full chorus. Considering that all the artists are UNLV students their performance was surprisingly professional and frequently thrilling.
The ballet opened to an impressive scenic design by David Rowe that consisted of two structures resembling antique ruins, possibly temples. Suspended from above was a huge disc decorated with what may have been astrological signs. A thin layer of stage fog permeated the setting and added to its mysterious ambience.
The scene was gradually filled with an ensemble of male and female dancers who could have been part of a Pagan cult. They appeared to be dominated by high priests or oracles enacted by singers. Two especially outstanding vocalists were baritone Michael Parham and mezzo soprano Kathryn Omune.
The choreography ranged from large balletic ensembles to duets and solos as well as folkloric and courtly dances, and an appropriate Maypole sequence which in ancient times had been a fertility ritual.
If there was a specific plot, it escaped me. However, and despite a few sections of routine choreography, the ballet’s overall effect was compelling and evocative and didn’t need a story-line.
All the dancers were remarkably adept in classical ballet. Many young ladies performed comfortably on pointe and the gentlemen not only turned and leaped skillfully but partnered well, too.
With ‘Carmina’ the dancers displayed a high balletic level that attested to the exceptional training they receive at UNLV.
At the other end of the dance spectrum was Stephanie Martinez’s ‘Shiver’, a contemporary and innovative work that, without semi-balletic moves or all-too-familiar modern ones, was truly original.
The choreography successfully combined physical flexibility with sharp, stiff, angular movements that gave the larger groups an ominous marching quality.
It was a rewarding visual realization of the various recorded music sources and a dramatic Shakespearean reading by the late actor John Hurt.
The dancers seemed to be aware that Martinez was exploring new choreographic territory and enjoyed being a part of it. She is a choreographer to watch.
One of the highlights of Victoria Dale’s ‘3My Optic’ was a solo fraught with pain, anger and frustration performed by Ari Williams. Her intensity and wrenching moves were like one unbearably sustained scream.
Also effective was the rhythmic Latin-Afro-Cuban finale and the eleven dancers’ facial make-ups of silver patches and straight black lines that related to their costumes.
Alex Yonkovich’s ‘6 PM to 6 AM’ began well with a dance for 12 girls in a jazzy, blues style, tinged with a hint of boogie woogie. But after that the work became tedious and lacked originality.
Costuming was good throughout as were the lighting designs.