The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Department of Dance recently joined forces with  dancers from the Korea National Sport University (KNSU), located in South Korea, for a production called “Together 3.” Together (get the pun?),  they performed the third installment of their co-choreographed concert series at the Judy Bayley Theatre on Oct. 1 and 2.

Cast of "Together 3"

Interestingly, collaboration seemed to be in short supply. Only one piece was actually comprised of dancers from both institutions and the two acts themselves were largely divided: only one piece in the first act was created by someone other than a UNLV faculty member. The second act was created entirely by KNSU choreographers.

"Glyph"One of the things that stood out the most was the lighting design. The production management program, run by Peter Jakubowski, is unique in that it allows students to study production elements (like lighting and sound) intensively. The student aspect resulted in much experimentation, most of which was positive. In this, the lighting design did exactly what it was supposed to: quietly exemplify the art onstage.

As far as dance elements go, the two acts were very different.

For UNLV, nondenominational modern was the mainstay. This was contrasted with KNSU’s sparkling ballet that battemented off the second act, followed by their own version of contemporary jazz and modern.

"Glyph"

Granted, UNLV started the concert off strongly with “Glyph,” a jazz piece that had a sassy modern vibe, choreographed by Richard Havey. The staging and unison sections were excellent, indicating long and arduous rehearsals. The length of the piece was also appropriate and put the audience in mind of old-school concert dance, lending an auspicious start to the show.

Margot Mink Colbert’s “After the Waltz” was a dissonant, disconcerting piece that elicited a “hmm …” and a head-tip. The intent could have been made more clear, but the musicality on the part of the dancers was undeniable. The bright turquoise costumes were striking and added a strong visual element to a mildly cacophonous piece.

"After the Waltz"

“No Where to Call Home” and “Sojourner,” choreographed by Cathy Allen and Vikki Baltimore-Dale, respectively, epitomized college dance in some questionable ways. “No Where” was strong visually but was still reminiscent of a movie with underdeveloped characters: at the end of it, the audience isn’t quite sure it cares.

“Sojourner” had many of the elements of a strong number and did especially well for the male dancers. The music, as Dale’s often is, was viscerally exciting and withdrew a respectable response from the audience. However, its length went unjustified by the slightly less-than-hard-hitting energy behind the movement.

Louis Kavouras and James Jeon (the lone Korean creator in the first act) both stood out as strong choreographers. Kavouras’ “At First Sight” was an exuberant study of two rag-tag characters and a bench. The exaggerated interactions provided unexpected comedy and a lighthearted reprieve and the chemistry between dancers was evident.

Jeon’s “Moves” had a persistent urgency about it but began and ended in stillness, creating an interesting juxtaposition. Staging patterns were slightly muddy, but the floor-work and landings were, especially on the parts of the KNSU dancers, silent and precise. Overall, it continued along the contemplative, ethereal line of the rest of the first act.

“Mozart,” also choreographed by Jeon, opened the second act with pattering bourrées, smart temp de quise, pert echappes, delicate port de bras and pointework that seemed to pluck the music’s violin strings. The costumes were spectacular and the small corps was endearing in its earnestness. There were still small indicators of student-dom, but they were few and forgivable. The strong ballet was refreshing nonetheless.

“Paradise,” choreographed by Kim Hyun Nam, was a bright-eyed piece featuring strong character work, an exploration theme and bare feet. The strength of the dancers was evident and much of the animated choreography was simply adorable.

The last two pieces, “Impressions of Korea” and “Feel the Sweet Story,” featured sweeping dynamics and choreography from Baek Hyun Soon, James Jeon and Lee Ye Soon. The last piece segued into the finale and a hand-shaking affair between both schools.

The partnership between UNLV and KNSU has existed for a number of years and provides an international network for students in both departments. KNSU attendees come to the U.S. for a week, rehearse with UNLV dancers and take class, then perform in the concert in Vegas.

Now, UNLV dance students are hopping on a plane to South Korea, where they will go through the same thing in Seoul, the national capital.

There were a few small blips in the mechanics of the concert. Pauses in between numbers are understandable in some cases, but bringing the house lights up seems unnecessary. The overall length could have been shorter, although the pacing was fairly smooth.

Overall, the concert was certainly respectable. Keep an eye out for the gems: they’re in there.

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