KELLY ROTH RETROSPECTIVE
By: Hal de Becker
A program of selected excerpts from the works of prolific choreographer Kelly Roth was presented at Summerlin Library Performing Arts Center. Mr. Roth is CSN’s Dance Program Head and director of several active dance companies.
It was a splendid concert performed with polish and elan by Roth, a dozen dancers and four musicians.
The excerpts, dating from 1981 through 2016, were a clear expression of Roth’s choreographic canon that any movement of any part of the human body can, when artistically structured, become dance.
The opening work was “Sayings of Super Cookie,’’ a solo performed by Roth, and one of the program’s two works dedicated to his mentor renowned teacher and choreographer Murray Louis.
It was an amusing combination of mime and dance with Roth in striped trousers and tee shirt, black tails, bowler hat and, except for a red rose tied to one ankle, bare feet. His engaging portrayal engendered a cross between a circus clown and a London tramp.
The other tribute to his mentor was Elegy for Murray, also a Roth solo, to music by Stravinsky. The accompaniment was performed on stage by Roth’s son, the gifted violist Tobias Kremer Roth. Roth père performed atop a clear plastic cube with control and evident feeling.
In Hernaeus and Taphea four young ladies in flowing white robes, arms overhead softly rounded and spread apart, moved in profile like figures freed from a painting on an ancient Grecian urn,
A randy satyr pursued them into small blue wading pools resembling sea shells and sprinkled water on them. The scene, including the antics, was set to music by Mozart and evoked impressions of his opera The Magic Flute.
Hernaeus and Taphea has been described as a spoof and the title could be mistaken for ‘Hernia and Taphead.’ Regardless, dancing and tableaux were captivating and the comedy effective.
Casting was perfect. Kaylee Hannig, Jennifer Roberts, Carrie Miles and Ariadna Ramirez were balletic, lyrical and lovely and Danny Mendoza agile and mischievous.
Yoomi Lee, former ballerina with Nevada Ballet Theatre and co-founder/director of Las Vegas Ballet, performed Michel Fokine’s classic, The Dying Swan. With her slender lines and delicate persona she was an ideal choice for the role, and her sensitive portrayal aroused sympathy for the creature’s tragic fate.
Interlopian Tubes was a compelling piece that took its inspiration from paintings by Emily McIlroy some of which were video-projected onto the backdrop and resembled masses of intermingling entrails.
It was skillfully danced by Hannig, Roberts, Lee, Miles and Christina Stockdale.
Staci Walters’ inventive set was particularly impressive with illuminated, tunnel-like tubes extending from each side of the stage through which the dancers entered and exited.
Each dancer performed in a different movement style from balletic to angular, to crisp and wiggly. In each instance the choreography suggested the writhing, twisting and sometimes graceful intertwining seen in the projections.
At the conclusion of the dance a vertical tunnel descended from above and enclosed the dancers within it.
The music of David Longstreth, Louis Andreissen and Evan Ziporyn was well suited to the theme and the choreography.
In Iron Rod, the interaction of three couples each holding a long rod, was interesting and varied. It was set to an original score by Thor Ellyk. Dancers already noted were joined by Chaslina Cress and Alexis Portillo.
The major work on the program and the one that best exemplified Roth’s unique art as choreographer, performer and innovator was A Trimbling, in memory of the late violist Mary Trimble.
It was a story-less piece for eight dancers, set to the music of Prokofiev’s String Quartet No.1. Except for an occasional extended heel and flexed foot - a nod to the Russian composer - the choreography combined unique body moves with ballet and modern that were pure Kelly Roth.
20th century chamber music does not lend itself easily to dance, but Roth’s response to the music, including its inner-pulse, resulted in a vivid visual realization of it. That the choreographer is also an accomplished pianist no doubt provided him with special insights.
He and Ms. Roberts performed a steamy duet to the music’s andante movement. She was sleek and sensuous and his partnering strong as their bodies interwove smoothly throughout the inventive couplings.
Dancers included Makena Kimani, Lorenzo Valoy and others mentioned earlier. Their dancing, whether in small groups or full ensemble, was, as in all the numbers, excellent.
They were accompanied live on stage by the UNLV Graduate String Quartet consisting of Dmytro Nehrych, Yestyn Griffith, Adam Stibler and Tobias Roth. Their playing was flawless.
The only weak work was a mini-mini-version of Fokine’s Petrushka. The choreography and story, as presented, were shallow and had the look of a ‘last minute’ inclusion. Even with outstanding dancing by Hannig and Miles it failed to rise to the high caliber of the rest of the program.
The excellent costumes were credited to Audrey Ketchell, Catherine Sterle, Cynthia DuFault and Roth. Jody Caley and Roth shared credit for the effective lighting and he and Jeremiah Johnson for the video projections.
An entertaining surprise was Roth’s on stage, extemporaneous remarks which he admitted were intended to give the dancers time to change between numbers. His relaxed charm and dry wit drew laughter and applause from a delighted audience.