Tag Archive: greg sample


Two companies rife with young talent competently mixed contemporary and classical dance with exuberant energy in a joint performance on May 15 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. “A Choreographers’ Showcase,” now in its fourth year, showcased the ambitions and abilities of artists from Cirque du Soleil and Nevada Ballet Theatre in a performance that filled the house — and the enormous stage — respectably.

Each piece was choreographed by a dancer from one of the companies (with the exception of “Pra,” pronounced “prey,” by Rommel Pacson, a dancer who does physical therapy work for Cirque). Each choreographer stepped forward to introduce his or her work and the insight from the artists aided the comprehension of some experimental concepts.

The diversity of the show was encouraging. “Pra,” mentioned above, was a flexed-foot, modern-influenced and highly athletic depiction of pursuit. “Glo,” by Cirque artist Vanessa Convery, incorporated film to fully express the emotional breadth of the message of the piece, which was spoked with eye-catching partnering and incandescent interactions.

Story-telling was, pleasantly, in no short supply. “Vindicate,” a piece by NBT artist Krista Baker, told the story of the complicated aspects of life in a dance studio. The ensemble-work and technical aspects in the piece were wonderful and the honesty in the narrative offered a fresh take on a familiar atmosphere.

Cirque artist Greg Sample’s “Pressing Play” also revolved around a relatable central concept: hitting pause on adult responsibilities and pressing play on the spontaneous discoveries of childhood. The number featured distinct character movement that was performed well to quirky music. This combination fit the mission statement of the work and elicited giggles and warm-fuzzies from the audience.

Abstract concepts were bravely explored in pieces like “The Vertical Hold” by NBT’s Ashleigh Doede and “Dreams of Hope” by Hanifa Jackson and Israel Gutierrez of Cirque. Emotions ran high in both and the fortitude of the performers was commendable. “The Vertical Hold” was a tense, brooding embodiment of conflict and stalemates. Domineering and driving energy piloted “Dreams of Hope,” a strong jazz number with crazy partnering and the only choreographic collaboration in the show.

Perhaps the most literal interpretation of an idea came from Cirque’s Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar with “Making Sense of Movement.” The choreographer introduced his piece with anecdotes about dancing alongside performers that were blind or deaf but could still interpret music. The number was created with this in mind; each dancer bore a red mask, worn alternatively over eyes or mouth to simulate sightlessness and silence. Although the piece had a sinister ring to it at the start, the lingering message exonerated the limitless possibilities of having a fully functioning body.

“Cue: Bow,” a piece by Kalin Morrow of NBT, began the show with a plucky and inventive vibe that was refreshingly light-hearted. Childish narratives and characters shone through and spoke well to the audience. “Ascension,” by NBT’s Leigh Hartley, used ballet- and lyrical-tinged choreography to tell the story of a hospital patient that, by the end of the piece, traded the hospital gown for an angelic dress. The classical note kept things in perspective and the story was satisfyingly straightforward.

Mary LaCroix, an artist with NBT, choreographed “Apres Vous,” which landed late in the second act. The number had a thread of personal experience in it, as LaCroix admitted early on, and this contributed a nice veracity. The narrative traveled from a fractured relationship to a gritty and determined coda, concluding finally with a mildly indignant resolution.

Effervescent exploration and collaboration made the show not only remarkably diverse but highly enjoyable. Not everything was as polished as it might have been with full rehearsals, but that wasn’t the point. It was encouraging to see the power and ambition of these performers and, with any luck, this annual concert will continue for many years to come.

“A Choreographers’ Showcase” will be performed at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. Tickets are available here, and proceeds contribute to an outreach program that has allowed more than 3600 students to attend a special performance of the show.

A nearly four-year-old Vegas-based company underscored an unwritten rule in the dance world in Vegas: This is not a “company” kind of city.

Roman Pantoja and other LVCDT members perform"Ebony Concerto"

The Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater performed their annual fall concert series Nov. 5 – 7 in the West Las Vegas Library Theater on West Lake Mead Boulevard. In a city dominated by iconically elaborate productions, dance companies like LVCDT are an anomaly and, potentially, a breath of fresh air.The small theater drew a modest (but very supportive) crowd and the show was a solid run at strong concert dance, which is something generally missing in Vegas.

Bernard Gaddis is the founding artistic director of LVCDT and boasts a resume with credits from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Philadelphia Ballet Company and Cirque’s “Zumanity” and is currently performing with “Mystere.” He is oft-quoted about the aspirations he has for the company, saying he wants it to become a strong Vegas voice in the dance world — a noble goal. And by most accounts, he has the experience and the vision to back this up.

However, the continual justification of the company’s success doesn’t necessarily come across positively. You sold out a couple thousand-seat theater in Mexico —okay, awesome. Where’s that audience now?

Granted, LVCDT has several things, and people, working for it. Gaddis’ experience could be an obvious asset, although the accompanying diva mentality tends to be alienating. For the fall 2010 concert, accomplished guest choreographers Milton Myers and Greg Sample each set pieces on the company. Most of the dancers themselves are polished and the partnering in particular was excellent.

Because of the ground-breaking nature of the company, though, balancing the deliberately different with the audience-accessible can be a challenge. A performer’s connection with the observers and fellow dancers alike is tantamount to this accessibility and this was somewhat lacking in the fall concert.

The show featured five pieces, one each choreographed by Milton Myers, Marie-Joe Tabet, Greg Sample, Debra Lacey and Gaddis himself.

“Ebony Concerto,” choreographed by Myers to a Stravinsky jazz score, was an exuberant contemporary ballet that opened the show. The highly interactive piece bounded forth in the same vein as Jerome Robbins’ ballet “Interplay,” eliciting laughs from the audience and starting the show on a playful note. Strong production elements were evident in the use of lighting, producing classy silhouettes and emphasizing the back-and-forth nature of the piece.

Tabet’s solo, choreographed by Gaddis, was appropriately titled “Ms. Marie-Joe’s Blues.” The number echoed the jazzy vibe of the first piece and threw in a dash of blues for good measure. Tabet’s piece was to a track by Melody Gardot and mirrored the artist’s low and beseeching voice with flexed-hands choreography and a pleading feel. The number outlasted its welcome slightly as the pedestrian choreography became predictable, but it was well-performed and pleasantly intimate.

Sample’s piece “Eliade” defied the “contemporary” in “contemporary ballet” and opted for “modern ballet” instead. The effect suited the company and the theatrical nature was engaging. Synchronized choreography and simultaneous duets illustrated the cohesion of the corps and LVCDT’s strength in numbers. However, a strange dissonance was found in the stage presence (or lack thereof) of the dancers singled out as soloists. Despite the dynamic choreography, individual performers appeared to have a hard time establishing themselves as principals.

“Whelm,” choreographed by LVCDT’s senior associate director Debra Lacey, stood out through its African modern, Horton and Graham aesthetics and audible breath. Teasing glimpses of audience-friendly battements and impressive turns were few in choreography redolent with Graham hands and long lines, but inventive partnering and a more evident storyline was mitigating.

Gaddis’ somber “Opulence” was perhaps the most emotionally expanded in the show and the dancers were much more engaging as a corps than individually. The choreographer’s affinity for pas de deux was evident and several such vignettes would have done well at the top of the performance. The choreography could have been more synchronized, but the contemporary ballet label fit perfectly: it was sassy and self-possessed, if a little muddy at times.

As a whole, the show highlighted the paradox of the young company talking a big game. Having the self-confidence to run with the big dogs is one thing, but perspective is entirely another, and, perhaps unlike LVCDT, perspective might be a bit underrated.

 

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