A nearly four-year-old Vegas-based company underscored an unwritten rule in the dance world in Vegas: This is not a “company” kind of city.
Roman Pantoja and other LVCDT members perform"Ebony Concerto"
The Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater performed their annual fall concert series Nov. 5 – 7 in the West Las Vegas Library Theater on West Lake Mead Boulevard. In a city dominated by iconically elaborate productions, dance companies like LVCDT are an anomaly and, potentially, a breath of fresh air.The small theater drew a modest (but very supportive) crowd and the show was a solid run at strong concert dance, which is something generally missing in Vegas.
Bernard Gaddis is the founding artistic director of LVCDT and boasts a resume with credits from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Philadelphia Ballet Company and Cirque’s “Zumanity” and is currently performing with “Mystere.” He is oft-quoted about the aspirations he has for the company, saying he wants it to become a strong Vegas voice in the dance world — a noble goal. And by most accounts, he has the experience and the vision to back this up.
However, the continual justification of the company’s success doesn’t necessarily come across positively. You sold out a couple thousand-seat theater in Mexico —okay, awesome. Where’s that audience now?
Granted, LVCDT has several things, and people, working for it. Gaddis’ experience could be an obvious asset, although the accompanying diva mentality tends to be alienating. For the fall 2010 concert, accomplished guest choreographers Milton Myers and Greg Sample each set pieces on the company. Most of the dancers themselves are polished and the partnering in particular was excellent.
Because of the ground-breaking nature of the company, though, balancing the deliberately different with the audience-accessible can be a challenge. A performer’s connection with the observers and fellow dancers alike is tantamount to this accessibility and this was somewhat lacking in the fall concert.
The show featured five pieces, one each choreographed by Milton Myers, Marie-Joe Tabet, Greg Sample, Debra Lacey and Gaddis himself.
“Ebony Concerto,” choreographed by Myers to a Stravinsky jazz score, was an exuberant contemporary ballet that opened the show. The highly interactive piece bounded forth in the same vein as Jerome Robbins’ ballet “Interplay,” eliciting laughs from the audience and starting the show on a playful note. Strong production elements were evident in the use of lighting, producing classy silhouettes and emphasizing the back-and-forth nature of the piece.
Tabet’s solo, choreographed by Gaddis, was appropriately titled “Ms. Marie-Joe’s Blues.” The number echoed the jazzy vibe of the first piece and threw in a dash of blues for good measure. Tabet’s piece was to a track by Melody Gardot and mirrored the artist’s low and beseeching voice with flexed-hands choreography and a pleading feel. The number outlasted its welcome slightly as the pedestrian choreography became predictable, but it was well-performed and pleasantly intimate.
Sample’s piece “Eliade” defied the “contemporary” in “contemporary ballet” and opted for “modern ballet” instead. The effect suited the company and the theatrical nature was engaging. Synchronized choreography and simultaneous duets illustrated the cohesion of the corps and LVCDT’s strength in numbers. However, a strange dissonance was found in the stage presence (or lack thereof) of the dancers singled out as soloists. Despite the dynamic choreography, individual performers appeared to have a hard time establishing themselves as principals.
“Whelm,” choreographed by LVCDT’s senior associate director Debra Lacey, stood out through its African modern, Horton and Graham aesthetics and audible breath. Teasing glimpses of audience-friendly battements and impressive turns were few in choreography redolent with Graham hands and long lines, but inventive partnering and a more evident storyline was mitigating.
Gaddis’ somber “Opulence” was perhaps the most emotionally expanded in the show and the dancers were much more engaging as a corps than individually. The choreographer’s affinity for pas de deux was evident and several such vignettes would have done well at the top of the performance. The choreography could have been more synchronized, but the contemporary ballet label fit perfectly: it was sassy and self-possessed, if a little muddy at times.
As a whole, the show highlighted the paradox of the young company talking a big game. Having the self-confidence to run with the big dogs is one thing, but perspective is entirely another, and, perhaps unlike LVCDT, perspective might be a bit underrated.