Two companies rife with young talent competently mixed contemporary and classical dance with exuberant energy in a joint performance on May 15 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. “A Choreographers’ Showcase,” now in its fourth year, showcased the ambitions and abilities of artists from Cirque du Soleil and Nevada Ballet Theatre in a performance that filled the house — and the enormous stage — respectably.
Each piece was choreographed by a dancer from one of the companies (with the exception of “Pra,” pronounced “prey,” by Rommel Pacson, a dancer who does physical therapy work for Cirque). Each choreographer stepped forward to introduce his or her work and the insight from the artists aided the comprehension of some experimental concepts.
The diversity of the show was encouraging. “Pra,” mentioned above, was a flexed-foot, modern-influenced and highly athletic depiction of pursuit. “Glo,” by Cirque artist Vanessa Convery, incorporated film to fully express the emotional breadth of the message of the piece, which was spoked with eye-catching partnering and incandescent interactions.
Story-telling was, pleasantly, in no short supply. “Vindicate,” a piece by NBT artist Krista Baker, told the story of the complicated aspects of life in a dance studio. The ensemble-work and technical aspects in the piece were wonderful and the honesty in the narrative offered a fresh take on a familiar atmosphere.
Cirque artist Greg Sample’s “Pressing Play” also revolved around a relatable central concept: hitting pause on adult responsibilities and pressing play on the spontaneous discoveries of childhood. The number featured distinct character movement that was performed well to quirky music. This combination fit the mission statement of the work and elicited giggles and warm-fuzzies from the audience.
Abstract concepts were bravely explored in pieces like “The Vertical Hold” by NBT’s Ashleigh Doede and “Dreams of Hope” by Hanifa Jackson and Israel Gutierrez of Cirque. Emotions ran high in both and the fortitude of the performers was commendable. “The Vertical Hold” was a tense, brooding embodiment of conflict and stalemates. Domineering and driving energy piloted “Dreams of Hope,” a strong jazz number with crazy partnering and the only choreographic collaboration in the show.
Perhaps the most literal interpretation of an idea came from Cirque’s Mukhtar Omar Sharif Mukhtar with “Making Sense of Movement.” The choreographer introduced his piece with anecdotes about dancing alongside performers that were blind or deaf but could still interpret music. The number was created with this in mind; each dancer bore a red mask, worn alternatively over eyes or mouth to simulate sightlessness and silence. Although the piece had a sinister ring to it at the start, the lingering message exonerated the limitless possibilities of having a fully functioning body.
“Cue: Bow,” a piece by Kalin Morrow of NBT, began the show with a plucky and inventive vibe that was refreshingly light-hearted. Childish narratives and characters shone through and spoke well to the audience. “Ascension,” by NBT’s Leigh Hartley, used ballet- and lyrical-tinged choreography to tell the story of a hospital patient that, by the end of the piece, traded the hospital gown for an angelic dress. The classical note kept things in perspective and the story was satisfyingly straightforward.
Mary LaCroix, an artist with NBT, choreographed “Apres Vous,” which landed late in the second act. The number had a thread of personal experience in it, as LaCroix admitted early on, and this contributed a nice veracity. The narrative traveled from a fractured relationship to a gritty and determined coda, concluding finally with a mildly indignant resolution.
Effervescent exploration and collaboration made the show not only remarkably diverse but highly enjoyable. Not everything was as polished as it might have been with full rehearsals, but that wasn’t the point. It was encouraging to see the power and ambition of these performers and, with any luck, this annual concert will continue for many years to come.
“A Choreographers’ Showcase” will be performed at 1 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 at the “Viva ELVIS” theater at Aria. Tickets are available here, and proceeds contribute to an outreach program that has allowed more than 3600 students to attend a special performance of the show.