Guest choreographers, all alumni from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, joined forces with the dance department faculty at UNLV and presented their work at the  Studio One Theater on Oct. 9.

The concert came a week after the school’s fall showcase, which was performed in the Judy Bayley Theatre on Oct. 1 and 2.

Although the show on Oct. 9 was set in a studio theater and was a less-polished affair, there were several factors that made it more watchable than its formally staged counterpart.

A daunting 16 number fleeced the program, but “Entrances” was a scant 50 minutes long (as compared to the nearly two-hour-long “Together 3” earlier this month.) Some limitations of the studio theater were evident in, ironically, the entrances and exits, but the seamless tech transitions smoothed this over considerably.

Oddly, only three numbers in the concert were actually titled (Cathy Allen’s “Balm in Gilead,” Richard Havey’s “Names” and Erin Downey’s “The Cut.”) Everything else was identified solely by the choreographer’s name, which left the audience with a largely blank slate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the guessing games got old after awhile.

Casting was affected by the dance department’s exchange program with the Korea National Sport University (KNSU), with whom UNLV produced “Together 3.” UNLV and KNSU dancers performed together in Las Vegas earlier this month, after Korean dancers had spent a week in the U.S. taking class and rehearsing. Now, the majority of UNLV’s department is in Korea doing the same.

This had less of an impact on “Entrances” than it might have on other productions. Because every piece was choreographed by someone different, this diversity was more the focus than the dancers themselves.

Howver, perhaps “diversity” isn’t the word. The concert, like most at UNLV, had a modern-contemporary tendency and many of the pieces seemed to have been cast from the same mold. Allen’s use of portable white benches added an element of interest to the first piece, and strong characters shone through in numbers by Marko Westwood and Ian Dodge.

Havey’s “Names” embodied his signature spins-and-skirts style and his choice of music in the Goo Goo Dolls tipped a hat to the audience’s appreciation of (a novel concept) music with words.

As alumni, Erin Downey and Cheryl Snow stood out as hard-hitting choreographers. Snow emphasized a lot with a little in her piece,  which featured a soloist and minimalist choreography. Isolation and musicality were evident and those are two things that can’t be faked.

Downey’s piece opened with chill-inducing synchronization from her four dancers and closed the show on a strong note. The movement was demanding, dynamic and serious and lent an inkling of old-school concert jazz.

UNLV faculty  would do well to branch out with what they’re nurturing in young choreographers, because there’s more out there than modern dance. It’s OK to choreograph to music with lyrics. Subject matter doesn’t have to be depressing to make an impression, and the average audience member will probably tell you that 50-minute concerts are awesome.

Check out the photos below or on Flickr and feel free to leave comments if you have ’em.

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