Tag Archive: lynn neuman


Company members depicting the chemical symbol for the plastic molecule using neon tape in "Plastic People of the Universe."

A dance company with a funny name came to UNLV on April 1 and 2 for a concert that was part neo-classical modern and part social commentary. Artichoke Dance Company, which is based out of New York, hit the stage of the studio theater clad in costumes adorned with those plastic six-pack holders that kill dolphins. “Plastic People of the Universe,” an artistic exploration of the properties and ramifications of plastic in our society, was no less surprising or enjoyable.

A short, cheeky film started the show with what would accompany the audience throughout the entire concert: a disconcerting mix of humor and apprehensive disillusionment. Intimidating facts about the breakdown and reuse of plastic would be presented to generate an ominous feeling, but then a cute turn-of-phrase or sly joke would break the gloom and doom. This accomplished precisely what so many organizations cannot: a consciousness of humanity’s impact that was tinged with purposeful optimism.

Artistic director Lynn Neuman’s “Plastic People of the Universe,” the concert’s namesake and the entire first act, was a tasteful venture into the experimental. Dancers George Hirsch, Malinda Crump, Aidan Feldman, Maxx Passion, Toby Billowitz and Neuman herself acted as competent guides, directing the audience with a wide vocabulary of movement. (Student dancers Hillary Gibson, Candi Hanson, Jesus Nanci and Ashley Wilkerson augmented the cast as well.) Classic modern concepts like weight-sharing and contact improvisation were morphed into contemporary cousins of what has been around since the 1980s, which created a relevance typically unheard of in this genre.

Technique was evident in many cases and the movement itself was at once accessible and alien, made even more so by the commitment of the dancers to the odd and unorthodox. At one point in the show, dancers traversed the stage and called out chemical compositions of the human body, down to amounts found at 0.175 percent. This sort of thing, on top of everything else, gave “Plastic People” weight and immediacy and engaged the audience in a concept that could have been overlooked or tuned out otherwise.

Toby Billowitz and Maxx Passion in "Commuter Connection"

For all the inauspicious insinuations presented in the first act, the second was a purely enjoyable study of characters and circumstances. “Commuter Connection: A Rush Hour Romance” featured dancers standing shoulder-to-shoulder, each reading a publication as if on a bus or subway. One commuter, portrayed by the eye-catching Passion, was a disorganized, frantic, cellphone-weilding mess that was as endearing to the audience as she was obnoxious to the other characters. Passion’s fearless acting was mirrored by Billowitz, who gracefully rendered an understated and kindly character. The piece was scored by well-selected Tchaikovsky tunes and added just the right hue of humor to the concert.

“Recession Dances, and so can you!” expanded the scope of Artichoke’s commentary and examined the effect that economic changes have on the arts. The suite of pieces featured dances popular in other recessions from the 20th century, such as the sugar push from the West Coast, the mambo, the tango and the lindy hop. Modern laced each of these, creating a cohesive experience without becoming monochromatic. Animated personalities from the dancers and incredible choreographic breadth from Neuman exemplified the versatility of this little company from the other, more distant coast.

Toby Billowitz, Lynn Neuman and George Hirsch do the lindy hop in "Recession Dances, and so can you!"

The concert, as well as the weekend of Artichoke’s Las Vegas tenure, was over too soon. It is rare to see such a relatable conglomeration of difficult realities and redeeming light-heartedness, but the company members and dancers from UNLV pulled this off seamlessly. And if an off-the-wall dance performance can’t make people think twice about buying bottled water, it is unlikely that anything else ever will.

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"Melodic Hallucinations" by Stephan Reynolds

UNLV’s dance department produced “A Moveable Feast” on March 25 and 26 at the Judy Bayley Theatre and, with the help of guest choreographers, further reiterated the school’s strengths in contemporary dance. Modern was highlighted to a lesser extent and ballet, which was also part of the program, could have been left out. Amidst everything else, it probably would not have been missed.

The proliferation of new choreography from the likes of Stephan Reynolds, Lawrence Jackson and Lynn Neuman brought a freshness to the show and gave the dancers a chance to show off in a style that is a collective aptitude. A character-style piece midway through served as an emotional reprieve and added variety. Neon tape and experimental concepts made a modest appearance as well.

An interesting thing happened, though. For much of the concert, the choices of the choreographers and the strengths of the dancers coincided perfectly. This intersection created an aura of confidence for the group and, lo and behold, true performance and presence emerged. This group is generally proficient in most of the works being showcased, but seeing the dancers perform something that looks and feels good to them was a treat.

Reynolds grabbed the audience’s attention with “Melodic Hallucinations,” a gritty, industrial number that was pleasantly reminiscent of “The Matrix” (if, of course, Neo could whip out some funky dance moves.) Reynolds made it clear that he is no stranger to producing pieces like this one; the staging, imaginative costuming and integrated set were well-received. A stripped stage and striking lighting were perfect complements.

"Baeke's Land" by Lynn Neuman

Two other pieces followed a similar vein. “Exurgency,” by Jackson, was steeped in suspense and urgency. The spacing was precise and visual and the modern influence was subtle and tastefully implemented. Maurice Watson’s “A Search for Serenity” was a quirky, sexy, swinging jazz number in six. Syncopation and soul ran through the music, which was spiked with bright brass tones that were wisely utilized by the choreographer. Sections of unison and clump-style spacing kept the number grounded.

“Baeke’s Land,” by Neuman, was a foray into the unexpected. The concept of the piece centered on the invention of plastic and its effect on the human body and, ironically, was quite an experience for the mind as well. Playful choreograph was paired with a serious subject and it made for a nice juxtaposition.

A disappointment in the show was “Prelude, Fugue, Postlude,” by Dolly Kelepecz and Andrea Dusel-Foil. The biggest problem was discordance: the music was nice, the fluid staging was engaging and the choreography was nontraditional and interestingly composed. However, the energy of the dancers was far, far below what is necessary to make a piece like this work. UNLV is not American Ballet Theatre, and that’s perfectly ok. Ballet in general, though, demands an amount of caring and presence that was simply not seen. The piece seemed somehow obligatory, like a necessary experience borne with a grimace.

"Prelude, Fugue, Postlude" by Dolly Kelepecz and Andrea Dusel-Foil

This disillusionment was redeemed with “Assembled,” a piece in the middle of the show that was choreographed by Miguel Perez, Alain Lavalle and Vanessa Reyes. Relationships between vibrant characters were acted out amongst a long table and chairs and individual personalities poked through at every available moment. Sections of sassy, girls-only jamming, heart-felt longing for a boy and back-and-forth group interactions were humanizing. Like most of the rest of the show, it was as entertaining as anything on MTV.

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The dance department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is bringing several East Coast companies to Las Vegas for special performances throughout their regular spring season.

Jeanne Ruddy Dance, a company of professional dancers exploring the realm of contemporary and modern dance and improvisation, will be performing at the studio theater on campus on Feb. 25 and 26. The work performed at UNLV will include pieces by Jeanne Ruddy, Mark Dendy, Jane Comfort, Janet Lilly, Peter Sparling and Ziv Gotheiner. Each of these performances will be followed by “Dancescapes,” a 50-minute concert comprised of work that UNLV students will be presenting at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia.

For those of you that want to get your current events knowledge going on, take note of Artichoke Dance Company and the concerts happening on March 31 and April 1 and 2. The dancers, under artistic direction of Lynn Neuman, will be performing “Plastic People of the Universe” as a way of investigating how single-use plastics affect the environment and the bodies of carbon-based, bipedal life-forms (that’s us, in case you were wondering.) The interconnected plastic rings that hold six-packs of cans serve as the basis for costumes and the set, proving that these nifty little do-dads can do more than ensnare the noses of dolphins.

Both of these concerts are in addition to the dance department’s regular season. “A Movable Feast,” with work by guest artists and UNLV faculty, will be performed by dance department students on March 25 and 26. “Spring Blend,” with pieces created exclusively by UNLV students, will be presented on April 28, 29 and 30.

Ticket prices vary by event and venue. Find details and information at the Performing Arts Center Box Office or by calling (702) 895-2787. Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or at the box office on campus.

Got all that? Here’s a recap just in case:

Jeanne Ruddy Dance:

Feb. 25 at 8 p.m., Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

HFA 111 at UNLV

“Plastic People of the Universe,” by Artichoke Dance Company

March 31 at 8 p.m., April 1 at 8 p.m. and Aril 2 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

HFA 111 at UNLV

“A Movable Feast,” by UNLV guest artists and faculty

March 25 at 8 p.m and March 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Judy Bayley Theatre at UNLV

“Spring Blend,” by UNLV students

April 28 at 8 p.m., April 29 at 8 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

HFA 111 at UNLV

Student and professional choreographers collaborated on the third concert of the fall semester at UNLV’s Dance Studio One on Nov. 18, 19 and 20.

“Kinetic Connections,” the name of the show, demonstrated the seemingly never-ending stream of abstract, movement-related concert names that the dance department is capable of generating. The pieces themselves, however, showcased a depth of thought on the part of the choreographers.

Guest artists Lawrence Jackson and Lynn Neuman added a professional breadth to the work of the students, but much of what the new choreographers set could have stood on its own anyway.

Jackson's "Exurgency"

Jackson’s “Exurgency” kicked off the show in purple-hued style, juxtaposing calm and precise steps with complex and busy staging. The space in the choreography left room for the dancers to connect with each other, creating a pleasant kind of tension and reality in the transitions. The movement itself was linear, modern-based and prone to canons and it was evident that the piece had been well-rehearsed.

Silence, quickly followed by a track redolent with piano and ambient noise, followed the first number. Jaleesa Staten’s “Hounded,” a pas de quatre, was cloaked in a wandering, baleful guise. The periodic stillness offset more frenetic sections and fierce extensions punctuated the piece. By the end,  the four girls had disrobed down to nude underwear and three were sitting against the far-upstage wall. One girl was left downstage and alone, filling the space with sadness amidst the sound.

Julia Peterson’s “The Strength to Be” was a fresh, industrial-feeling hip-hop piece with syrupy syncopation and strong accents. Ballet technique was evident and the diversity from both the dancers and the choreographer was welcome. The stone faces were an interesting detail, however. In a piece devoted to the strength of individuals, a more direct connection with the audience (indeed, a congregate of individuals), was strangely missing.

Sherer's "Sudden.Anxious.Flood"

“Sudden.Anxious.Flood.,” by Sandra Sherer, lived up to its name. The choreography was cyclic and desperate-feeling, exemplified by dancers rocking nervously and scrambling with abandon. The feverish, nightmare-like soundtrack completed the motif.

Neumann’s piece, explained briefly in the program, was a sort of tribute to Leo Baekeland and, perhaps more importantly, to the substance he invented: plastic. The piece was appropriately titled “Baeke’s Land” and was built around  the laying down of neon tape. The dancers, each attired in what can only be described as the worst of the leavings of the 1980s, executed the pleasantly cacophonous choreography well. The steps were contemporary and almost lyrical  and a section of contact improvisation seemed a fitting tribute to decades past.

Wilkerson's "With Love in Love"

Perhaps the most pedestrian story was displayed in “With Love in Love,” by Ashley Wilkerson. The music was reminiscint of a vintage Disney movie and the sweetheart characters matched perfectly. The straightforward narrative, with its unabashed entertainment value, was a respite from some of the more abstract pieces. Dancers Rachael Hayner and RJ Hughes did well with the choreography, although establishing a connection with the audience seemed to be a challenge at times. More expressive faces could have cleared up somewhat ambiguous scenarios throughout the piece.

UNLV’s emphasis on modern-based technique was evident in Jennie Carroll’s “Unlimited,” accompanied by deep acoustic guitar. The clear, linear movment contrastd with the fragmented and multifaceted nature of the piece, leading to a visual complexity that seemed to fit the title.

“A Jar of Broken Pieces,” choreographed by Emily Miller, was a percussive and pleading piece exemplified by the intense reds in the four girls’ flouncing tutus. The sweeping aggressivnes and shorter length made it more audience-accessible and the movement was well suited to the group of dancers.

Anna Fazio’s “Society” surged forward from the beginning. The start of the piece had a dark vibe to it and the choreographic progression of the dancers, often with oen following closely behind the other, could have symbolized an evolution of sorts. The frenzied running seemed to be further commentary. Either way, the eye contact between both the dancers themselves and the dancers and the audience was excellent and engaging.

Michael Coleman's "As the Last Petal Falls"

Michael Coleman’s “As the Last Petal Falls” brough a sense of calm to the stage. The choreography was busy, occasionally overly so, but the transitions of quiet walking lent some visual white space. Ballet technique was evident in attitudes and coupes and the movie-score-like track only added to this.

“Lonely Fire,” choreographed by Tiffany Caudullo and the only solo in the show, was a low and sultry number. The choreography was well executed, although there were perhaps a few too many still spaces for a potentially dynamic piece. The floor-centered movement was inventive, however, which mitigated this considerably.

Jessica Coleman's "V-XVII-MCMLXXXIII"

“V-XVI-MCMLXXXIII,” (yes, that is the title of a piece) was choreographed by Jessica Coleman and closed the show with musings about the nature of time. Ticking in the track was soon interrupted by a disruptive beat and the dancers became the cogs of a clock with many, many hands. The piece was engrossing in its complexity and the alarm bell that ended the number was fittingly jarring.

Time also ticked away steadily throughout the nearly two-hour concert. However, the variety of ideas in each piece made the show more entertaining than it was elongated. Big ideas are coming out of the small theater at UNLV.

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