ALICE IN SLUMBERLAND AT TSC
By: Hal de Becker
Some of the best contemporary dance performances I’ve seen locally took place at the West Las Vegas Library in 2011 and The Smith Center in 2013. All were given by Bernard Gaddis’s Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theatre.
Back then, in reviewing selections from those programs, I wrote of their ‘poetic beauty’ and ‘high choreographic level.’ I often described the dancing as ‘deep and moving,’ ‘memorable’ and ‘superb,’ and I used the words ‘charismatic,’ ‘gifted’ and ‘flawless’ to describe Mr. Gaddis’s own performances.
Some of the other LVCDT offerings I’ve seen have disappointed, including its latest at TSC, ‘Alice Down the Rabbits Hole.’ The ballet was based on Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass.’
That young company I saw at the library, with its often stunning contemporary dancing and choreography, showed potential of becoming a first rate ‘Contemporary Dance’ troupe. But it’s beginning to look instead like a third rate ballet company.
Mr. Gaddis’s choreography for ‘Alice’ was contrived mostly on classical ballet steps with combinations that often resembled side to side classroom lessons. I found it neither inventive nor interesting but tedious with its frequently repeated steps.
The tale’s familiar ten or so characters, among them Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat and White Rabbit, were introduced with mime-like movements in a long series of separate scenes -- I stopped counting after six -- intended to convey their outlandish personalities. Still, no clear story-line was established.
A few of the ladies had comfortable ballet techniques and could dance on pointe. But the other dancers lacked their usual dynamic and were merely adequate. Only two made any notable impact with their characterizations.
Marie Jo Tabet, as Queen of Hearts, played her antics to the hilt and Janet Kravenko had strong presence as the evil Grandmother – a character, incidentally, I don’t find in my edition of the original tales.
The music for ‘Alice’ was composed by Martin St. Pierre and its descriptive clarity often indicated the ballet’s progression better than the stage action.
On its own and just for listening, the music would make a delightful ‘Wonderland’ suite.
Costumes were colorful and the ‘mushroom’ backdrop effective, but ‘sets’ were minimal, a table here, a chair there, and the vast stage often had an empty look.
To ideally replicate Alice’s fantastical dream-world, bizarre sets and some special- effects would be needed. Of course, budgetary considerations don’t always allow for such advantages.
But a simple children’s slide, disguised to suggest the rabbit hole, would have depicted Alice’s descent more effectively than did the lighting method used.
And had she been alternately placed in the vicinity of a large and a small version of some identical pasteboard designs, the illusion of her changes in height -- major events in the tale, could have been included.
The ballet was just too small, intimate and incomplete for a venue as grand and imposing as The Smith Center.
Nevertheless, the performance was well attended and the audience appreciative.
The troupe’s 2015 season should be a welcome return to contemporary style works with Alvin Ailey’s ‘Night Creatures’ and Gaddis’s ‘Red Door’ and ‘Bujutso’. More info available at WWW.LVDANCE.ORG