Archive for November, 2011

UNLV dance department students descended upon the studio theater Nov. 17-19 for this semester’s student choreography concert. Hands met feet. Shoes were put on, then taken off again. The usual unitards were replaced with bra tops and tights and a measure of head-tip-eliciting content was well represented. And there was a rodent on a leash.

Hands, meet feet. Now, run!

“Hands Meet Feet,” the titular piece for the show, was exactly what it sounds like. Choreographer Margot Mink Colbert, one of the faculty in the department, had her dancers clamping onto their own (and other people’s) lower appendages and trying to walk, roll and otherwise flail about the stage. The name of the piece was actually a nonverbal symbol from the Labanotation system, which is a type of writing system used to record choreography in incredible detail.

The piece was cerebral and postmodern and the quirkiness was enjoyable. A ferret, inserted seemingly last-minute at the end of the piece (on a leash and properly supervised, I should add) embodied the nature of the piece: strange, but cute. But still strange.

“Code Simulations” (or “Stimulations,” in part of the program, which was probably a mistake but quite funny anyway) was a multifaceted piece by Michael Coleman. A gritty edge and some punchy choreography paired well with the electronic feel. Mood shifts drew thoughts of a circuit-breaker or switchboard and the interlacing movement completed the motif.

Krista Caskie’s “Synthetic Consciousness”  had a similar theme. Dancers Alex Lum and Summer Reece, both encased in different colored unitards, executed intriguing partnering. Technicians should also be lauded here, as the number was compelling from visuals alone.

Alien shapes and stark silhouettes made Krista Caskie's "Synthetic Consciousness" visually interesting

“Hope,” by Nichole Reyes, was a straightforward swirl of tulle and tenacity. The dancers seemed more aware of the audience, peering out from the stage emotionally. Jennie Carroll’s “Through the Space” was multidirectional and had a similar effect. The bounding, wiggling movement combined with curious faces and bright strings in the soundtrack was worth cracking a smile for. The choreography was nicely musical and different enough to be interesting.

Novelty made an appearance, as it is wont to do in college dance shows. “Hound,” choreographed and danced by Jaleesa Staten, centered on a television tuned to static downstage and an angst-filled, disrobing dancer with a mystifying inner monologue. RJ Hughes’ “Music Box Boundaries” was more conventional, with tulle-garbed performers breaking out of respective boxes, only to be sucked back into them during the coda. Hughes added some swag to the familiar storyline, which kept the predictable ending from being too painful.

Mirrors added another dimension to Bakalas' piece

“I Am …” with choreography by Amanda Bakalas, used three mirrors positioned upstage, facing the audience, to convey the journey of three different relationships. Love, loss and breakups abounded and the piece ended on an exasperated note, with the dancers seeming to fight against the reflections.

Alex Lum’s “Fresh Kicks” furthered the vein of poignancy with his anticonsumer, anticonformist message. A hop hop beat backed Avree Walker as he donned a pair of Nikes, the $100, pop culture status symbol. An army of masked Nike-wearers coalesced behind him, creepily infiltrating Walker’s happy-go-lucky vibe. Eventually, the shoes came off and, as you might have guessed, Walker walked free. Like Hughes’ piece, the strong execution of the number mitigated an over-hashed theme.

“Sojourner,” Vikki Baltimore-Dale’s jazz contribution, had a masculine, tribal energy and was more visually accessible than other pieces in the show. Hillary Gibson’s “Celebracion de Movimiento,” which ended the show, was similarly straightforward. “Here I Am, There I Go … Once Again” by Jesus Nanci was balletic and doleful, although the source of the somber notes remained obscured.

In a broad sense, this could be said for much of the show. Blossoms of inventiveness peeked through the concert, but it seems that college dance will always be college dance, with graduation deferred indefinitely.

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I might be a mild-mannered, blogging bunhead by day, but by night, I’m a fearless editorial intern, crusading for truth and accuracy at Best of Las Vegas, a website owned by Stephens Media Group. I wrote a story about the possible closure of Cirque’s “Viva Elvis,” which ran today. It looks like Aria might be pulling the plug on the show at the end of 2012. This would be the first time a resident show has closed in the city since “Mystere” came here in 1993, and it’s shortly before the new Michael Jackson show debuts in 2013 at Mandalay Bay.

If you’re interested in reading details and seeing what another one of my personalities gets up to, trot on over to the story here. For a copy of the memo that Cirque released on Wednesday announcing the changes, follow the link here.

It could usurp those much-touted 10,000 hours of practice time researchers have said you really need to excel at something. (Find an excerpt of the original study here.) The New York Times ran a story recently about the effect of repetition as it stacks up against natural aptitude. Some of the observations are fascinating, especially for mildly obsessive individuals who spend countless hours grasping a barre.

Practice is important, certainly. But how far can talent go to compensate for fewer practice hours? What does a high I.Q. predict for an individual and at what point does a level of heightened intelligence yield diminishing returns?

Interested in reading more about practice versus predispositions? Check out the link here to read the full story.

The infamous Los Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male ballet ensemble, hit the stage running in Tel Aviv with a tongue-in-cheek rendition of “Swan Lake.” Dance critic Ruth Eshel wrote a fantastically matter-of-fact piece about the performance and took note of the company’s history. (The group started as a large-scale nose-thumbing at classical Russian ballet that, as Eshel writes, soon solidified into the Trockadero company.)

Eshel points to the influence of not only George Balanchine in the Trock’s “Swan Lake” but to classical modern favors as well. “Les Ballets Trockadero sends its barbs at classical ballet but also at influential American choreographer Merce Cunningham, and the result makes you laugh so hard you fall out of your chair,” she writes.

Want to read more? Follow the link here to the original post. And, whether you’re a ballerina or a ballerino, bourree back soon!

Around this time last year, dancers were feeding those in need by taking ballroom, burlesque, Zumba and jazz dance classes. In four hours, nearly 100 dancers donated $1,440, which translates to about 4,000 meals.

Melena Rounis is bringing her high-stepping fundraiser to Las Vegas for the third year running. Step Up and Dance will be at the The Rock Center for Dance from 12:45 p.m. until 4 p.m. on Nov. 19. Six outstanding dancers are donating half-hour master classes (master locker Scoo B Doo of the original Soul Train gang included), and the money raised will be donated to Three Square food bank. A minimum $10 donation buys a pass to take one, all or a combination of the classes. For extra-good Samaritans, $20 nets a T-shirt as well. You don’t need to be a dancer to participate and all ages are welcome.

For more information about the event, check out my blog post from last year. Or, better yet, grab your dancin’ shoes, head over to the Rock on Nov. 19 and step up to help out before the holidays. See you there!

Norm Clarke at the Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote a great feature on a dancers formerly with Cirque’s “The Beatles LOVE” who joined the cast for the touring version of “Michael Jackson The Immortal.”

Cameron McKinlay and other “LOVE”ers chartered a bus to Los Angeles for the three-hour audition, making the trip in between shows at the Mirage. McKinlay is one of 24 dancers to be hired for Cirque’s latest show and the only one from Las Vegas. Follow the link here to read the story.

A young man from the Mount Rushmore state will soon be premiering with a company that’s older than this country. David Hallberg joined the prestigious Bolshoi Ballet and will be part of the production of “Sleeping Beauty” shortly, and he’s the first American to join the troupe since American companies started recruiting Russian dancers 50 years ago.

The Washington Post ran a story from the Associated Press detailing Hallberg’s trajectory from South Dakota to American Ballet Theatre, then onto Moscow to dance with the company. Follow the link here to read more about Hallberg, his teachers and his journey to Russia.