In a flurry of flexed feet and out-of-the-box-ness, the Las Vegas Academy produced their annual fall dance concert on Oct. 15 and 16 at the LVA Performing Arts Center on East Clark Ave.
If they had been graded on improvement from their show earlier this year, they would be graduating with honors at the end of the year.
Most of them, anyway. A few hitches still existed and many of these few were due to choreographic choices. The structure of the pieces was consistently better overall, but a number of cliches ran rampant.
Square, obvious turns in second smack-dab in the middle of a piece are bad enough on competition stages. Do you really have to have 30 dancers stop dead in a concert and whip out fouettes en masse?
Some choreographers at LVA would tell you, with no small measure of certainty, that yes, you do.
Retro choreo aside, many pieces stood out as forward-thinking, either in subtle ways or big ones.
“Citrus Glow,” the opening number choreographed by Kristine Keppel, was an endearing experience reminiscent, somehow, of Jason Reitman’s 2007 film “Juno.” Carefree energy coupled with the natural buoyancy of high school made this piece heart-warmingly age-appropriate. The movement was a smooth mix of the sincerity and silliness, with cart-wheels, pantomimes of jump-rope and stints of ring-around-the-rosie. Personality was everywhere.
“Be Present,” also by Keppel, demonstrated the depth of what can be accomplished with a larger corps. Although bigger numbers of performers can sometimes be inhibiting to the clarity of a piece, Keppel’s cohesive themes provided structure. The men at the school were also showcased well.
A few Easter eggs of novelty pieces interspersed the show and were few enough to be enjoyed. “Don’t Eat What They Are Feeding You,” by Jeneane Huggins, and “Are You Out or Are You In?” by Karen Turnabull were good examples.
"Don't Eat What They Are Feeding You"
“Don’t Eat What They Are Feeding You,” in the first act, pivoted on each performer’s set of spoons. Small, soup-size ones in the beginning were soon outclassed entirely by spoons that were 2/3 the height of the dancers. The props were used creatively (with lots of digging and stirring involved) and the piece was surprisingly serious.
Turnbull’s “Are You Out or Are You In” began with strips of black-lights laid on the apron of the stage. This was coupled with the white-striped sleeves and socks of the costumes, which produced a cool glowing effect that limited choreography only occasionally.
Later in the piece, each of the performers in the piece had a medium-sized cardboard box surrounding his or her middle. These boxes came on and off throughout, ending with one lone soul high-stepping around all the boxed bipeds around her.
"What Is Life Worth Living For?"
Maturity is a precious thing in young adults and this quality shone through in two pieces in particular. “Touched,” by Kristine Keppel, and “What is Life Worth Living For?” by Jeneane Huggins and the E2 company, were both at the end of the show, illustrating what youthful energy can build up to.
Partnering was present in each both pieces, and this served two purposes: it singled out individuals from a sometimes overwhelmingly large corps and it gave the audience a chance to watch the performers connect one-on-one. The intimacy between the couples was touching and sincere and the maturity was undeniable.
Other pieces were enjoyable for different reasons.
“Thanks for the Memories,” choreographed by Lisa Lazenby, had a club beat, in-your-face energy and sassy guitar, which was a good fit for the teenagers. “The Disappeared,” by Karen Tunbull, was a sexy, playful number to a song not unlike something heard from the Beach Boys. Chiptune transitions and quirky head-bobs lent some funk.
Thomas DiSabato’s “Lifeforce” had a fizzy effervescence to it and was highly visual. The choreographer has branched out from his usual as well, exploring a more soft-core contemporary that suited the ethereal nature of the piece.
A few of the more irritating moments came in “Walk Away,” also by DiSabato, and Lisa Lazenby’s “The Ageless Dream.” Straight technique certainly has its place, but come on now. These kids can do much more than square chasses.
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