EAST JOINS WEST IN UNLV DANCE CONCERT
By: Hal de Becker
Photos by Josh Hawkins
When UNLV’s student dancers and those of the Korea National Sport University (KNSU) join together in a concert it’s always an outstanding terpsichorean event.
Their sixth collaboration was presented recently at Judy Bayley Theater and was aptly entitled ‘Together 6’. It involved 35 dancers, 11 choreographers, costumers, directors and, of course, stage crew, theater staff and more. The result was a stimulating evening of dance.
Louis Kavouras, director of UNLV’s dance department and a frequent performer, introduced the concert with a few words extolling the student exchange program. He noted that during the past 10 years hundreds of dancers and choreographers from both countries have participated and benefitted from it.
He closed his remarks with an eloquent reference to the way that “…live art enables artists and audiences to get away from the world for a little while.”
The concert’s first half was performed by UNLV’s student dancers and consisted of four modern works choreographed by some of the department’s outstanding instructors.
Cathy Allen’s ‘Precipice’ was the most compelling and impressive. The movements were mostly lyrical and included interesting floor work. But it was the changes of mood from mystery to conflict and the tension they developed that especially distinguished the piece.
‘The Storm’, by talented choreographers-dancers Richard Havey and Keena Smith, was a rhythmic jazz-ballet with lots of hip action, high kicks, extensions and pirouettes set to recordings of Prince. It was an engaging but one-dimensional and sometimes repetitious work. Gail Gilbert’s scenic rock sculpture designs were effective.
Margot Mink Colbert’s choreography for ‘Syzgy’, to which according to the credits the dancers contributed, had some good ballet informed passages but was over-long and over-loaded with cart wheels and grand jetes (traveling leaps with both legs extended).
Beth Mehocic’s score , ‘Conversations for Wind Quintet’, was the strongest element of the work. The quality of the music rose to the level of some of Stravinsky’s works for wind instruments.
Kavouras’s ‘Miles to Go’ to music of Miles Davis was divided into day and night; Day being the more vigorous segment and Night the calmer. Jazz, acro, more cartwheels, together with some ballet, provided the movement style.
Costuming for all the numbers was by Kehler Welland. Colors of frequently repeated shades of purple or maroon failed to animate the dancing and many had an ordinary ‘make do’ look. Perhaps, budgetary considerations were the reason and, if so, it showed.
In an intriguing innovation there was no space between the four dances: they segued into one another without stopping. This was an effective device, but at times may have emphasized the tendency of sameness pervading some of the numbers, ubiquitous cart wheels for example.
The Korean dancers opened their half of the program with a classical ‘ballet blanc’ entitled ‘Chopin Valse’, set to three of the composer’s waltzes for solo piano. It was choreographed by Kim Jiyeon for three couples, the men wearing white tunics and tights, the ladies ankle length white skirts and toe shoes.
The choreography, typifying the style of the19th century Romantic period, was fluid and at times poetic. Dancing was elegant and polished and reflected thorough classical training that included not only flashy leaps and footwork, but clean positions and disciplined port de bras (use of arms).
‘Moment’ by Kim Hyun Han for five ladies and one man was performed to an exciting mostly percussive drum accompaniment. The engaging moves were abstract with lots of accents from hands, hips and shoulders.
Baek Hyun Soon’s ‘Gyeonggomu’ was an elaborate ceremonial style dance with suggestions of folkloric roots utilizing fans, hand-held drums and bells. The multi-colored costumes decorated in gold were stunning.
It was a highly theatrical piece and at its conclusion received a well-deserved sustained ovation.
Han, Soon and James Jeon choreographed the production’s striking finale, ‘Together’, to a symphonic score by Karl Jenkins. The music ranged from powerful, forceful passages to melodious waltzes, and the dancing, combining abstract and classical ballet styles, skillfully responded to it.
At the final curtain call all the production’s dancers gathered on stage, exchanging congratulations, flowers and embraces in a warm display or artistic comradery.