Archive for February, 2012


Cirque’s latest resident show, “Iris,” was temporarily booted out of its home at the Kodak Theatre for the Super Bowl of the cinema world: the 84th Annual Academy Awards. The evening-long lockout wasn’t total, though. More than 50 artists from several of Cirque’s productions flipped, twirled and tossed each other through the air in an artistic interpretation of what it’s like to go to the movies.

Did you miss it? Never fear! Take a gander at the video below, and hold on to your hats next time you hit the cinema just in case you’re suddenly airborne.

Performers showcased a fuller Fosse flavor in "Sing, Sing, Sing," which closed the concert.

A small, sultry cast slunk onstage to some spectacular renditions of Bob Fosse’s work in “Take Off with Us,” a benefit directed and choreographed by Cirque’s Giulio Scatola and presented by RagTag Entertainment. The Ovation theater at Green Valley Ranch played host and, while the production elements were understated by Las Vegas standards, the show didn’t need them. The performers delivered tasteful and tantalizing sensuality, coupled in most cases with grand stage presence. All of this made the $15 ticket price a stellar value.

Leads Traci Kesisian and Savannah Smith were knockouts; their full, emotional voices bore the show along effortlessly. Scatola’s choreography also did them justice, as they both neatly sidestepped the old paradigm of singers who don’t dance. Kesisian and Smith held their own with the ensemble of dancers backing them, propelled by compelling command of the stage.

The rundown of “Take Off with Us” was short, sweet and sassy. Dancers Claudia Cervenka, Erin Marie Sullivan, Kady Kay, Rochelle Wolfe, Caitlin Cray Shea and Tenile Pritchard demonstrated great versatility, switching between the lovely, lilting “Take Off with Us” opener and the coy, snappy “Bye Bye Blackbird.” “Blackbird” especially was svelte and feminine and played well to the audience.

“Big Spender,” another predictably dance-y number, featured the entire cast and resisted any precious ambiance, opting for gritty authenticity instead. Beautiful girls cat-calling to guys across a bar is a familiar scene in Las Vegas, but the girls’ playfulness garnished the number with laughs.

They gotcha! Traci Kesisian, flanked by Claudia Cervenka (left) and Erin Marie Sullivan, made it clear that these performers aren't playin'.

Smith’s and Kesisian’s vocal solos well placed in the program. Smith began the show with “Take Off with Us” and, later, “All that Jazz,” seamlessly switching keys and showing off her delightful belt. Kesisian’s voice hearkened back to the edginess of Gwen Verdon, a point she underscored beautifully in the up-tempo “I Gotcha” and “Mein Herr.”

The due shone in “Class,” “Nowadays” and “Life is a Bowl of Cherries.” Their professionalism was clear, and their enjoyment bled into the audience throughout the show. Arles Estes bears mentioning as well, as his arrangements of “Take Off with Us” and “Cherries” were just the right degree of smooth and snazzy. Kesisian and Smith’s dance break in “Nowadays” was also excellent, rife with jazz hands and Charlestons.

Individuals in the ensemble, equally hard to forget, made their voices heard in “Cell Block Tango,” perhaps the most personality-filled number in the show. Each performer delivered a snide monologue about doing away with lying, cheating men, and the audience was roaring by the end of the act.

“Sing, Sing, Sing,” the traditional Fosse closer if there ever was one, wrapped up the concert. The performers were decked in fringe and glitter and their swishing costumes added an audible element to the Fosse-filled finale. Jazz hands, pigeon toes and distinctive, attenuated lines gave a final tip of the fedora to the show’s inspiration.

One final performance of “Take Off with Us” is scheduled for 8 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch. (Doors open at 7 p.m.) Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door, but arrive early, as the house fills fast. Proceeds benefit Golden Rainbow, an organization assisting those living with HIV and AIDS.

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Giulio Scatola, Cirque’s talent scout and a fine artist in his own right, has directed and choreographed “Take Off with Us,” a tribute to Bob Fosse, at the Ovation at Green Valley Ranch. The  concert series was produced in conjunction with RagTag Entertainment and revenue will benefit Golden Rainbow, a nonprofit organization supporting those living with HIV and AIDS.

If that sounds like your cup of tea — or bowl of cherries — stop by the Ovation theater today, Feb. 21, or Feb. 28. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the shows start at 8 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door; admission is $15. All ages must be accompanied by an adult 21 years of age or older. For more information, check out the Green Valley Ranch entertainment page.

Here’s a preview. Enjoy!

Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater opened its arms to the community for its fifth season and debuted new company members during two free concerts on Feb. 10 and 11. “An Evening of Dance” and “An Afternoon of Dance,” performed at the West Las Vegas Library Theatre on Lake Mead Boulevard, were also appropriately timed for African American History Month, a fitting gesture from the diverse company.

The show itself encompassed a breadth of genres and ended on an audience favorite, a dynamic piece by artistic director Bernard Gaddis called “Ebony Suites.” Think of Twyla Tharp’s contemporary ballets, rife with strong characters and intertwining story lines — and fabulous dancing, of course.

Christina Taylor, a new member of LVCDT, began the piece with a soulful and dignified solo to “Grandma’s Hands,” a rich and heartfelt track. Eddie Otero continued the tale with “Ain’t no Sunshine,” something of a signature piece for him, which was evident in the enthusiastic response from the audience.

Marie-Joe Tabet and Christopher McKenzie, spicy and silky-smooth in equal measure, brought a lovely fire to the number. The two toyed with each other, sidling up and sauntering away in an elaborate and engaging emotional display. McKenzie, another new LVCDT dancer, performed Gaddis’ former role well, capitalizing on the Ailey-esque choreography with his viscous smoothness.

In an antithesis to the dramatic duet, Antoine Banks-Sullivan and Erin Christiansen-Moya swooped in with a candy-sweet pas de deux to the timeless “At Last.” The light-hearted chemistry and polished choreography suited the couple well. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” a raucous and grooving good time performed by the whole “Ebony” gang, wrapped up the suite. (The cast changed slightly between the two shows, with Roman Pantoja, Nadjana Chandra and Lindsey Hashiguchi swinging in for Saturday’s program.)

“Dreamtime,” a cerebral piece by Elisa Monte, explored the aboriginal Australian idea that spirits vacate people’s bodies at night. The number used mirroring and counterpoint judiciously to create a nice sense of duality, and the fluid staging suited the dynamic movement. Tabet, emanating an air of regality, stood out as alacritous and commanding. Intriguingly lit from the side, “Dreamtime” was a contemporary step right up LVCDT’s alley.

“Bata” began the show with percussive style and a red-lit stage. West African undulations twined around Horton lines, underscoring the strong energy and swaying hips of the company. Some of the unison choreography was a little questionable, but the audience members made it clear that this didn’t bother them a whit.

Overall, the pacing of the show was decent, although two intermissions made the program a bit lengthy. Taylor, McKenzie and Caine Keenan, newcomers to the company, fit in well with the other dancers and brought unique artistic vibes of their own. Gaddis made an appearance in a button-down and slacks for this show and explained that he’ll be dancing less with the company, although his high-spirited introduction of his dancers made it clear that his commitment level to the company hasn’t shifted much.

LVCDT will be setting foot (or feet, as it were) onstage at the Smith Center in May.

News of Whitney Houston’s death in a Los Angeles hotel room has been circulating rapidly and outlets big, small, conventional and otherwise have been quietly tipping hats to a legendary artist. Although details of the situation are sparse, the rippling reaction from all kinds of people remains a testament to the calibre and accessibility of Houston’s work.

I found two stories particularly appropriate. One, from the New York Times blog, is a sort of love letter to Houston written by Gordon Chambers, a songwriter who worked with the singer for nearly 20 years. “She was angelically beautiful, and the very embodiment off all that post-civil rights Black America could be,” Chambers writes. You can find the full story here.

Closer to home, the Las Vegas Review-Journal ran a story memorializing Houston, including an interview with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s Alice Cooper. “She was the Barbra Streisand of her music. She had the purest voice of anybody,” Cooper said. Read the rest of the article here.

Houston was honored at the Grammy award ceremonies last night and the Guardian posted a great recap video of the tribute. Find it here.

And, by the way, the top-trending song on iTunes? Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” Seems appropriate.

If fat babies with bows and arrows aren’t enough to remind you of the heart-happy holiday that’s coming up, then another Vegas tradition should. Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, a mainstay in the arts scene in the city, is offering two free concerts on Feb. 10 and 11, just in time for both Valentine’s Day and African American History Month. (Diversity is an integral part of the company’s mission statement.)

“An Evening of Dance” begins at 7 p.m. on Feb. 10 and “An Afternoon of Dance” is at 1 p.m. on Feb. 11. Both shows are at the West Las Vegas Library Theatre at 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd. Come early, because general admission means that good seats fill fast. For a review of last year’s show, follow the link here.

New York City Ballet alluded to the unseasonably toasty season in a sunny program choreographed entirely by Jerome Robbins. Decked out in simple costumes reminiscent of sandy shores and bygone days, dancers embodied Robbins’ familiar motif of fanciful youth.

The show included “In G Major,” “In Memory Of … ” and “The Concert.” Brian Seibert wrote a great review of the show for the New York Times, available here. If you’re just in the mood for eye candy, click here for the multimedia slideshow. Whether you’re shivering through the drafty season or basking in winter warmth, both are worth a look.

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