Tag Archive: alex lum


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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A company based out of Philadelphia shook up UNLV’s studio theater on Feb. 25 and 26 with classic modern dance that was spiked with contemporary twists. Jeanne Ruddy, a former member of Martha Graham’s company, choreographed a piece, with additional works by Zvi Gotheiner, Jane Comfort and Peter Sparling and Janet Lilly comprising the first half of the concert. A preview of the UNLV-generated “Dancescapes” took over the second act.

Janet Philla in "Significant Soil"

For being separate entities, the two sections were remarkably well-matched. The show began with “Significant Soil,” a solo choreographed by Ruddy and danced by Janet Philla or Christine Taylor, depending on the concert. The piece played on novelty a bit with a man-sized coil dangling from the ceiling and stretched the length of the stage, but the prop was tastefully incorporated. The movement was breath-centered and emotional, depicting inner torment well and reminding the audience why, exactly, modern dance can be so enjoyable to watch.

“Enflold,” by Gotheiner and danced by Rick Callender and Melissa Chisena, also utilized set pieces well. The colloquial number was performed on a bench and, considering the constraints of remaining largely stationary, the choreography was inventive and elaborate. Literal themes were taken a step further with “The System,” a work about relationships that was equally tumultuous and contemplative. Choreographers Sparling and Lilly have created a unique and balanced piece that explored abstract movement without losing the attention of the audience. Dancers Callender and Janet Philla exemplified this with vibrant personalities and committed character-work.

“Four Screaming Women,” the culmination of the first act, was less a dance piece than an item of social commentary. Callender, Philla, Taylor and Meredith Riley-Stewart stood onstage and performed a symphony of repetitive movements, each accompanied by a phrase like “That’s wrong, that’s right,” “Is that what you want?” or “Did you vote? Did you win?” The call-and-response construction was often humorous, always entertaining and stopped just short of being obnoxious. Comfort, the choreographer, constructed the piece extremely well with mixed meters and wisely chosen phrases that begged the question, “Do we really sound like that?”

Melissa Chisena, Janet Philla and Meredith Riley-Stewart in "No Fear of Flying"

The second act, a mini-concert in itself, was more sympathetic to jazz than to modern but was tonally similarly to the first. Mark Dendy’s “No Fear of Flying,” performed by Chisena, Philla and Riley-Stewart, was a montage of strong female characterizations underscored by thought-provoking themes and a playful mood. A flight-attendent-style briefing for the audience, complete with blue-suited dancers with plastic smiles, was a high point of the piece and could have been a number in itself.

“At First Sight,” by Louis Kavouras, was fun and frolicsome and dancers Rachael Hayner and Alex Lum exploited this to the utmost. The two characters met, fell in love and enjoyed a fleeting few minutes of dewey-eyed romance before Hayner, quirky and exuding effortlessness, pilfered Lum’s backpack and traipsed away. Lum was adorable in his crestfallenness, completing the piece perfectly.

“The V Files Medley” by Vikki Baltimore-Dale and “Prelude, Fugue, Postlude” by Dolly Kelepecz were the two most traditional pieces and added a note of solidity to the show. Baltimore-Dale did well by her dancers with edgy undulations and featured solos, although unison choreography could have been stronger. Amanda Bakalas, Anna Fazio, Jesus Nanci, Lum and Hayner each approached the choreography differently and this, accompanied by Baltimore-Dale’s signature Afro vibe, made the number dynamic and exciting.

Rachael Hayner, Alex Lum and Jesus Nanci in "Prelude, Fugue, Postlude"

Kelepecz’s piece began with nontraditional lifts and choreography that was clean, straightforward and well-paired with the music. A fission-fusion method of staging was engaging to follow and avoided the static “principal and corps de ballet” configuration. The five dancers from Baltimore-Dale’s piece performed Kelepecz’s as well — the red-blooded jazz made for an interesting undercurrent and Kelepecz used this energy artfully.

Margot Mink Colbert’s “Swan Homage” also sidestepped the standard ballet, although for entirely different reasons. Nanci, clad in austere blacks and whites, danced alongside a projected image of Anna Pavlova performing Michel Fokine’s choreography from the 20th century. The effect was pleasantly perplexing with a nod to the humorous and summed up the concert nicely:

Odd and enjoyable.

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