Archive for February, 2011


After a few months of previews and reworking, the purportedly steam-driven “Triumph” at the Las Vegas Hilton closed shortly before the scheduled hard opening at the end of February..

Like many new shows in Las Vegas and elsewhere, four-walling and little initial momentum made for difficult starting conditions. Unfortunately, “Triumph” apparently never rounded the corner between being a financial liability and being profitable. Twelve dancers, as well as the two illusionists in the show, have returned from their inter-dimensional travels and will be in the 21st century to stay.

I was fortunate enough to see the show before it closed and, although there were several kinks throughout, the cast of dancers was excellent. I am, of course, biased. However, the only thing worse than seeing bad dancers onstage is seeing good ones that are out of work.

For footage of an interview with Larry and Rafael, the illusionists that were part of the show, check out the link here.

Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater puckered up just in time for Valentine’s Day and sold out the West Las Vegas Library Theatre on Feb. 11. “Love with LVCDT” featured 22 works performed by the company and guest artists and was an ideal show for the heart-centric holiday.

A program with a running time of more than two hours might seem daunting, but the energy of the performers and the variety of the choreography ensured that the time went quickly. “Mood Indigo,” a softly shifting contemporary ballet, introduced the show splendidly and two pieces from “Opulence” concluded the second act. Both were expressive and dynamic numbers but for entirely separate reasons, effectively demonstrating the depth and breadth of the contemporary ballet genre.

From there, the program touched on Chicago-style jazz, country-themed character pieces and Ailey-esque duets. For audience accessibility, the cowboy-style “Give One Reason” and “Why Haven’t I Heard from You,” were as good as it gets. “Ain’t No Sunshine,” a solo featuring Eddie Otero, and “L.O.V.E.,” with Otero, Roman Pantoja, Antoine Banks-Sullivan and Emanuelle Mirbal-Torres, were both comfortably masculine. “Bang Bang,” with Marie-Joe Tabet, was angst-filled and lovely.

The partnering in the show was excellent. None of the numbers were overly long and the pacing of the concert was well-balanced, with a mix of easy crowd-pleasers and more abstract pieces.

An interesting detail in the concert was that every piece was choreographed by Bernard Gaddis, the founding artistic director of LVCDT. Gaddis gracefully acknowledged this with chagrin and a laugh. The sheer volume of work makes this feat impressive and, while the flavors were distinctly modern, jazz and contemporary ballet, the variety wasn’t lacking.

LVCDT classics hit the stage backed by evidence of considerable rehearsals. In addition to “Opulence,” repertory pieces like “Bata” and “Rhythm 101″ were hard-hitting numbers that contributed to the dynamism of the concert. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag” was lively and swinging and brought a New Orleans flourish that was a delight to watch.

“Sacrifus,” with music by Kevin Keller, transcended cute character roles and commanded attention from the beginning. Trembling strings, coupled with dramatic lighting changes, seemed to dictate the movement of the three dancers and the effect was at once stark and emotionally affecting. This could be a signature piece in the making, and rightfully so.

Agnes Roux, a founding member of the company that now dances with Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity,” was a guest artist in the show and her vibrant personality was impossible to overlook. “Don’t Explain” and “Come On Strong” suited the leggy dancer well, each with flying attitudes and nuanced transitions that made good use of the space.

Numbers like “Baby You Got What it Takes,” with Gaddis and Heather Farrell and “All of You,” performed by Ian Dodge and Lacy Simpson, were heart-warming and easy on the eyes. “Love in Stillness,” with Erin Christiansen and Mirbal-Torres, and Tabet in “Ms. Marie-Joe’s Blues” kept drama in good supply. “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” featuring Danielle Howard, was a straightforward and jubilant piece with sweeping lines and plucky port de bras.

Ultimately, the annual concert again established itself  as a warm-fuzzy staple in the city’s spring lineup. Gaddis has found a good niche for his company and, with performances like this, exploits this effectively. The result is intriguing and very enjoyable. Advice for the next year’s show: come early. Seats fill fast.

A lively cast of Las Vegas locals put on the monthly “Burly-Q Revue” on Feb. 10 at Daddy Mac’s and proved that, contrary to insinuations in the Las Vegas Weekly, there is a lot of Vegas burlesque to love.

Miranda Glamour, pictured left, was the “femcee” for the night and conducted the show with her usual mix of warmth and wryness. The timing of the performance wasn’t ideal, as the “Varietease” event for the Burlesque Hall of Fame was also taking place the same evening. Logistics meant that the start-time of the  “Revue” was delayed by an hour, but that was the only casualty.

Glamour detailed a bigger tragedy, though. In her coverage of the “Varietease” show, Kristin Peterson of the Las Vegas Weekly commented that, “aside from Cha Cha Velour’s monthly burlesque show at Boomers Bar, it’s slim pickings around town, despite the burlesque dancers that abound here.”

Hmm. Maybe Peterson is talking about Las Vegas, N. M., because Las Vegas, Nev. has more burlesque than arts writers like me know what to do with. Yes, as Peterson pointed out, Cha Cha Velour’s “Booming Burlesque” at Boomers Bar is a fantastic standby. However, the “Burly-Q Revue” takes place on the second Thursday of every month is is tied with Madonna for reinvention capabilities.

Karnival” at the Onyx is generally the second Wednesday of each month and almost always includes burlesque of some kind. The Erotic Heritage Museum is known for featuring performers like Dr. Sexpot for one-time-only or serial events, like the “Grindhouse Burlesque” show that took place on Feb. 13. Jeff McBride’s “Wonderground,” another recurring show, happened Feb. 17, as did the “Four Play Variety Show” at the Erotic Heritage Museum. There has also been talk of a burlesque game show that would be transpiring in the near future.

Individual performers are continually grabbing the neo-burlesque movement by the horns and organizing their own shows. The people behind these instances will tell you that the burlesque business isn’t easy. It isn’t dead, either, and the performers deserve credit where credit is due … including at the “Burly-Q.”

Once the show got started, it skipped along energetically and featured acts from well-established Vegas performers. Lou Lou Roxy, with pink gloves and her signature smirk, managed to shimmy her way out of a strait-jacket to a track that could have scored an enjoyably bad spy movie. The second act featured Roxy in a glittering copper dress, which was soon discarded in favor of fringe and feathers that were both artfully wielded.

JP Nomi Malone performed, most memorably, a contemporary pointe number to Across the Sky’s “First Love Song,” which was a true novelty and holds potential for future performances. Cartwheels, handstand-rolls and splits, coupled with the exaggerated presentation, made both of Malone’s acts entertaining.

 

Miranda Glamour and Dr. Sexpot maintained intermittent banter that kept things cohesive. Glamour’s delightful “Touch-A Touch-A Touch Me” from “Rocky Horror Picture Show” is becoming a signature act for her and, like a good cheese, keeps getting better with time. Sexpot revealed unsung talents on the piano to go along with her splendid voice in a jazz number at the top of the show. Her sunshine-steeped personality also shone through in “Put a Bag Over My Head and Let’s Make Love,” which was, if possible, almost musical theater burlesque.

Blanche DeBris, part of the cast of “Menopause” at the Luxor, gave Sexpot a vocal run for her money with a rendition of “Funny Valentine” sung into a handheld mirror. Oh, and there was a guy eating what looked like flaming marshmallows. Zamora the Torture King smoked other performers with his fire-eating act and ended the show with the same side-show energy that makes burlesque so much fun to watch.

 

All bawdy jokes aside, this month’s “Burly-Q” was unexpectedly poignant. While the comment in the Weekly certainly isn’t condemning in itself, it reveals a sobering mentality about some of the artistic work in the city. Grassroots shows like this can be easy to overlook sometimes. However, the vivacious effort on the part of the performers makes them considerably harder to discredit.

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It might not be an animated movie about a love story between two garden gnomes, but Russian National Ballet Theatre’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Chopiniana” was pretty awesome. Check out my coverage of the concert in the Rebel Yell, the student newspaper for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Happy reading!

Insurgo Theater specializes in improv, but Marko Westwood proved on Feb. 2 that he’s not so bad at it, either. When an elderly couple that lives below Westwood had their rent money stolen, Westwood organized a last-minute benefit concert to keep the couple from being evicted.

“THANKS,” a concert featuring dancers from Westwood’s Repertory Dance Theater and performers from the Insurgo troupe, was the result. Tickets were $10 at the door and a donation box was made available on Insurgo’s homepage with the goal of collecting the $400 minimum payment.

All told, the effort was reciprocated with $820.

"Twelfth Night," Insurgo Theater Movement

Considering the short notice, the cohesion in the show was impressive. Insurgo kicked in several scenes from their erotic Shakespeare rendition called “Twelfth Night,” which was a wise plug for current and upcoming shows. Other improv skits from their “Improvious Bastards” series illuminated the breadth and talent of the performers and were fantastically funny to watch.

Dance numbers made up about a quarter of the show. “You Can’t Get a Man with a Gun,” previously performed in a show at the Onyx in January, made an appearance and featured Serena Bartholomew and Petrina Olson. Olson also performed “Gravity,” a contemporary number full of lyrical swings and falls. Marko and Megan Westwood performed “Always/again,” an amazingly poignant study in dependence and separation. “Inner Sanctum on the Outside of My Sleeve,” by Jewel Racquel, centered around a red plywood cube and concluded the show in appropriate avant garde fashion.

Mick Axelrod performed several installments of “Wordsplay,” a charismatic and literary riff on the oh-so-eloquent English language — think rap, 17th-century style. The acts were both lexically aloof and conversational, an interesting juxtaposition that made them quite enjoyable. Ava Galore’s vocals were excellent as well in “Wherever He Ain’t,” a strong character number backed by a voice that can’t be knocked. Geo Nikols lip-synced to “Billie Jean” and graciously kept the program from getting too serious.

Quirky comedy was well represented and well received. Sam Craner performed “The Date,” a skit about a man preparing a candle-lit dinner when his date cancels at the last minute. Rosalie Miletich Ellis and Dave Surrate took the cake for acts that induced a head-tip, a wrinkled brow and a laugh. “The Interview” took place between an interviewer and a potential employee, who would spontaneously switch into canine mode and bark and growl at the interviewer. The doggie-style skit was just barely on this side of palatable, which is, of course, exactly how Insurgo likes it.

So despite the short notice and the hodge-podge program, the show was a success in more ways than one. Perhaps Westwood and the Insurgo gang should produce impromptu concerts more often. They certainly have a knack for it.

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Auditions a la Cirque, 2011

There’s something that happens every year that gets dancers very excited, but it doesn’t have anything to do with a fat man in a Santa suit — unless he’s auditioning for a character role. Cirque du Soleil, international entertainment mogul, holds open auditions for dancers and specialty acts every year and these are among the largest cattle-call auditions in the city.

This year’s audition series took place from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2 and was held at The Rock Center for Dance. The four-day stint staked out the largest spaces at the studio and included a plethora of dance styles, from contemporary to step to freestyle to locking and breaking.

How many dancers can you stuff into a studio to learn a combination? The registration team at the audition estimated that about 300 girls showed up on Jan. 30 for the the contemporary/ballet audition for females, which is usually the most well-attended portion. All 300 of those girls were funneled into one studio and taught a combination that traveled from the corner.

Traveled. Interesting concept, when space constrictions necessitate that port de bras consists of finger twitches.

True to promises made by the artistic team at the audition, the dancers were split into groups of two and each was given a few precious counts of eight to make an impression on the casting crew and a video camera. After everyone had been seen, the cuts began.

About 60 girls showed up for the street section on Feb. 1 and a fraction of the contemporary and street groups was kept for callbacks on Jan. 31 and Feb. 2, respectively. Those that made it all the way through are now part of the Cirque database, meaning that the artist has information on file with the company and will be contacted if an appropriate contract opens up.

Krista Monson, the director of casting for resident shows, and Giulio Scatola, an artistic talent scout for Cirque, were present and pontificating at the audition. Scatola gave the combination and Monson gave the rundown on general information about the company. A couple things were new.

For anyone that’s confused about what exactly is going on with the impending Michael Jackson experience, take note that Cirque actually has two shows slated for creation. One will be a touring arena show that will hit major cities for a few days to two weeks at a time. The other, as promised, will be a resident show in Las Vegas that will begin in 2013.

For Vegas dancers, hitting up a Cirque audition is almost a rite of passage and being on file with the company is certainly commendable. Keep an eye out for 2012 audition dates and it may be a good idea to bring along a single white glove.

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Note: None of the photos associated with this post are of the audition space, creative team or any audition material whatsoever. For official photos of Cirque shows, cast members and artistic directors, check out their website at the link above. For a sneak peek of audition combinations … go to an audition, yo.

The United Football League is doing more than bringing a sports team to the a city with a legendary lack of one: a cheer squad is also part of the deal. And if you wish your cheerleading was hot like theirs, take a look at the pre-audition workshop that the Locos have planned.

The workshop will be held from 1 – 4 p.m. on Feb. 26 and March 19, with registration beginning at noon. Both sessions will take place at Fern Adair Conservatory for the Arts. Topics covered will include those necessary for booking any professional dance job, with guest speakers going over things like resumes, headshots, appropriate appearances and training and casting. The choreography from the workshop will also be similar to what will be given at the preliminary auditions for the team. Attendees are advised to come in comfortable clothing and to be ready to dance.

The cost for the workshop is $15 per session or $20 for two sessions. Only cash will be accepted on the day of each workshop, but options for pre-registration are available. E-mail director Kim Diaz at LocosCheer@gmail.com for more information.

Naturally, this pre-audition work is designed to help prepare applicants for the real-deal auditions and information about those is as follows. The preliminary auditions for the Locos cheer team will be from 1 – 5 p.m. on March 26 at Fern Adair Conservatory for the Arts. Registration will begin at noon. The final round of auditions is tentatively set for April 9.

For more information about the workshop, the auditions and the team, head over to the UFL website. For extra pep in your news feed, find the Las Vegas Locos Cheerleaders on Facebook.

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