Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater opened its arms to the community for its fifth season and debuted new company members during two free concerts on Feb. 10 and 11. “An Evening of Dance” and “An Afternoon of Dance,” performed at the West Las Vegas Library Theatre on Lake Mead Boulevard, were also appropriately timed for African American History Month, a fitting gesture from the diverse company.
The show itself encompassed a breadth of genres and ended on an audience favorite, a dynamic piece by artistic director Bernard Gaddis called “Ebony Suites.” Think of Twyla Tharp’s contemporary ballets, rife with strong characters and intertwining story lines — and fabulous dancing, of course.
Christina Taylor, a new member of LVCDT, began the piece with a soulful and dignified solo to “Grandma’s Hands,” a rich and heartfelt track. Eddie Otero continued the tale with “Ain’t no Sunshine,” something of a signature piece for him, which was evident in the enthusiastic response from the audience.
Marie-Joe Tabet and Christopher McKenzie, spicy and silky-smooth in equal measure, brought a lovely fire to the number. The two toyed with each other, sidling up and sauntering away in an elaborate and engaging emotional display. McKenzie, another new LVCDT dancer, performed Gaddis’ former role well, capitalizing on the Ailey-esque choreography with his viscous smoothness.
In an antithesis to the dramatic duet, Antoine Banks-Sullivan and Erin Christiansen-Moya swooped in with a candy-sweet pas de deux to the timeless “At Last.” The light-hearted chemistry and polished choreography suited the couple well. “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag,” a raucous and grooving good time performed by the whole “Ebony” gang, wrapped up the suite. (The cast changed slightly between the two shows, with Roman Pantoja, Nadjana Chandra and Lindsey Hashiguchi swinging in for Saturday’s program.)
“Dreamtime,” a cerebral piece by Elisa Monte, explored the aboriginal Australian idea that spirits vacate people’s bodies at night. The number used mirroring and counterpoint judiciously to create a nice sense of duality, and the fluid staging suited the dynamic movement. Tabet, emanating an air of regality, stood out as alacritous and commanding. Intriguingly lit from the side, “Dreamtime” was a contemporary step right up LVCDT’s alley.
“Bata” began the show with percussive style and a red-lit stage. West African undulations twined around Horton lines, underscoring the strong energy and swaying hips of the company. Some of the unison choreography was a little questionable, but the audience members made it clear that this didn’t bother them a whit.
Overall, the pacing of the show was decent, although two intermissions made the program a bit lengthy. Taylor, McKenzie and Caine Keenan, newcomers to the company, fit in well with the other dancers and brought unique artistic vibes of their own. Gaddis made an appearance in a button-down and slacks for this show and explained that he’ll be dancing less with the company, although his high-spirited introduction of his dancers made it clear that his commitment level to the company hasn’t shifted much.
LVCDT will be setting foot (or feet, as it were) onstage at the Smith Center in May.