Tag Archive: university of nevada las vegas

Keith Thompson, of "Jersey Boys," introduces the "God Lives in Glass" show and the book that inspired it.

Las Vegas performers repurposed children’s views of God and fashioned them into a mirror that reflected, among other things, the effects of the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. The performance, titled “God Lives in Glass,” stemmed from a book by Robert Landy of the same name and proceeds from the show benefited a local nonprofit. Artists from the Strip and UNLV joined forces in a cast of more than 50 performers.

Family Promise Las Vegas was the beneficiary of the “God Lives in Glass” show, which was performed at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre on Sept. 10 and 11. While the project isn’t inherently centered on 9/11, composer Keith Thompson, musical director and conductor of “Jersey Boys,” spoke about the impact timing had on him.

“It’s a day, it’s a time, that I will never forget,” he said. Thompson spoke of the suspicion that followed Sept. 11 and about how meeting Landy shortly after the attacks inspired him “to continue to let the music live.”

And live it did.The “God Lives in Glass” book is a compilation of how children from myriad cultures think about God: what he looks like, how he thinks of the world. The show did an excellent job of melding images and text from the book with compelling music and inspirational vocal and dance performance.

There was no shortage of somber, heart-felt interpretations of divinity. However, bright pockets of childlike delight interspersed this, with such numbers as “God is a Tomato,” performed commendably by Zoe Konsur, and “Buddha Rap” by Tony Arias and Zaire Adams. Adults contributed to this as well. Brenda O’Brien lent some lofty articulation to “Religions,” a fabulously vibrant role call of belief systems.

Dancers from "The Lion King" perform "God Lives in Glass."

This being said, the overarching message of the show was weighty, but not necessarily in a negative way. “God Lives in Glass,” the titular track partway through the performance, featured dancers from “The Lion King” in a rousing number that underscored the message of the concert. Saleemah Knight’s choreography was technical enough to be impressive and the heart-felt movement fit perfectly with the show.

“Draw God” beat a similar path. Combined with keening vocals in “City of Walls” by Joan Sobel and Bruce Ewing, “The Eyes of a Child” by Tina Walsh and “Missiles and Stars” by Benjamin Hale and Niki Scalera, the effect was overwhelming at times.

Numbers steeped in joy also comprised much of the program. “The Jewel Blues” was an expressive and enfolding experience with big, swinging vocals by Nicole Pryor and some scintillating saxaphone from Eric Tewalt. Ewing, Ian Jon Bourg, Randall Keith and Patrick LeVeque elicited a roar from the audience with the robust harmonies in “All You Gotta Do is Pray.” David Demato regressed to the figurative age of 14 for “Heaven, Hell or Puberty,” which was as comedic and endearing as the title implies.

“A Boy is Coming to Heaven,” featuring Jimmy Lockett and Rashada Dewan, and “Open Your Heart,” by Christine Hudman, Dejah Gomez, Jason Andino and Tim Searcy made for an inspirational suite at the end of the show. Multimedia editing, projected onto a screen for much of the show, and a fantastic ensemble of voices and instrumentals drew the strings of “God Lives in Glass” together.

As a whole, the show was a good balance of sobering memories and sincere artistry. The orchestra deserves recognition here as well; the ebb and flow of wonderfully emotional music added considerable depth to the concert and pianist Philip Fortenberry offered a moving performance right at the end of the show. Combined with the timelessness of a child’s questions and a nation’s grief, “God Lives in Glass” was a highly appropriate homage to the events that transpired a decade ago.

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"Melodic Hallucinations" by Stephan Reynolds

UNLV’s dance department produced “A Moveable Feast” on March 25 and 26 at the Judy Bayley Theatre and, with the help of guest choreographers, further reiterated the school’s strengths in contemporary dance. Modern was highlighted to a lesser extent and ballet, which was also part of the program, could have been left out. Amidst everything else, it probably would not have been missed.

The proliferation of new choreography from the likes of Stephan Reynolds, Lawrence Jackson and Lynn Neuman brought a freshness to the show and gave the dancers a chance to show off in a style that is a collective aptitude. A character-style piece midway through served as an emotional reprieve and added variety. Neon tape and experimental concepts made a modest appearance as well.

An interesting thing happened, though. For much of the concert, the choices of the choreographers and the strengths of the dancers coincided perfectly. This intersection created an aura of confidence for the group and, lo and behold, true performance and presence emerged. This group is generally proficient in most of the works being showcased, but seeing the dancers perform something that looks and feels good to them was a treat.

Reynolds grabbed the audience’s attention with “Melodic Hallucinations,” a gritty, industrial number that was pleasantly reminiscent of “The Matrix” (if, of course, Neo could whip out some funky dance moves.) Reynolds made it clear that he is no stranger to producing pieces like this one; the staging, imaginative costuming and integrated set were well-received. A stripped stage and striking lighting were perfect complements.

"Baeke's Land" by Lynn Neuman

Two other pieces followed a similar vein. “Exurgency,” by Jackson, was steeped in suspense and urgency. The spacing was precise and visual and the modern influence was subtle and tastefully implemented. Maurice Watson’s “A Search for Serenity” was a quirky, sexy, swinging jazz number in six. Syncopation and soul ran through the music, which was spiked with bright brass tones that were wisely utilized by the choreographer. Sections of unison and clump-style spacing kept the number grounded.

“Baeke’s Land,” by Neuman, was a foray into the unexpected. The concept of the piece centered on the invention of plastic and its effect on the human body and, ironically, was quite an experience for the mind as well. Playful choreograph was paired with a serious subject and it made for a nice juxtaposition.

A disappointment in the show was “Prelude, Fugue, Postlude,” by Dolly Kelepecz and Andrea Dusel-Foil. The biggest problem was discordance: the music was nice, the fluid staging was engaging and the choreography was nontraditional and interestingly composed. However, the energy of the dancers was far, far below what is necessary to make a piece like this work. UNLV is not American Ballet Theatre, and that’s perfectly ok. Ballet in general, though, demands an amount of caring and presence that was simply not seen. The piece seemed somehow obligatory, like a necessary experience borne with a grimace.

"Prelude, Fugue, Postlude" by Dolly Kelepecz and Andrea Dusel-Foil

This disillusionment was redeemed with “Assembled,” a piece in the middle of the show that was choreographed by Miguel Perez, Alain Lavalle and Vanessa Reyes. Relationships between vibrant characters were acted out amongst a long table and chairs and individual personalities poked through at every available moment. Sections of sassy, girls-only jamming, heart-felt longing for a boy and back-and-forth group interactions were humanizing. Like most of the rest of the show, it was as entertaining as anything on MTV.

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The dance department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas is bringing several East Coast companies to Las Vegas for special performances throughout their regular spring season.

Jeanne Ruddy Dance, a company of professional dancers exploring the realm of contemporary and modern dance and improvisation, will be performing at the studio theater on campus on Feb. 25 and 26. The work performed at UNLV will include pieces by Jeanne Ruddy, Mark Dendy, Jane Comfort, Janet Lilly, Peter Sparling and Ziv Gotheiner. Each of these performances will be followed by “Dancescapes,” a 50-minute concert comprised of work that UNLV students will be presenting at the Adelaide Fringe Festival in Australia.

For those of you that want to get your current events knowledge going on, take note of Artichoke Dance Company and the concerts happening on March 31 and April 1 and 2. The dancers, under artistic direction of Lynn Neuman, will be performing “Plastic People of the Universe” as a way of investigating how single-use plastics affect the environment and the bodies of carbon-based, bipedal life-forms (that’s us, in case you were wondering.) The interconnected plastic rings that hold six-packs of cans serve as the basis for costumes and the set, proving that these nifty little do-dads can do more than ensnare the noses of dolphins.

Both of these concerts are in addition to the dance department’s regular season. “A Movable Feast,” with work by guest artists and UNLV faculty, will be performed by dance department students on March 25 and 26. “Spring Blend,” with pieces created exclusively by UNLV students, will be presented on April 28, 29 and 30.

Ticket prices vary by event and venue. Find details and information at the Performing Arts Center Box Office or by calling (702) 895-2787. Tickets can be purchased online, over the phone or at the box office on campus.

Got all that? Here’s a recap just in case:

Jeanne Ruddy Dance:

Feb. 25 at 8 p.m., Feb. 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

HFA 111 at UNLV

“Plastic People of the Universe,” by Artichoke Dance Company

March 31 at 8 p.m., April 1 at 8 p.m. and Aril 2 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

HFA 111 at UNLV

“A Movable Feast,” by UNLV guest artists and faculty

March 25 at 8 p.m and March 26 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Judy Bayley Theatre at UNLV

“Spring Blend,” by UNLV students

April 28 at 8 p.m., April 29 at 8 p.m. and April 30 at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

HFA 111 at UNLV

Guest choreographers, all alumni from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, joined forces with the dance department faculty at UNLV and presented their work at the  Studio One Theater on Oct. 9.

The concert came a week after the school’s fall showcase, which was performed in the Judy Bayley Theatre on Oct. 1 and 2.

Although the show on Oct. 9 was set in a studio theater and was a less-polished affair, there were several factors that made it more watchable than its formally staged counterpart.

A daunting 16 number fleeced the program, but “Entrances” was a scant 50 minutes long (as compared to the nearly two-hour-long “Together 3” earlier this month.) Some limitations of the studio theater were evident in, ironically, the entrances and exits, but the seamless tech transitions smoothed this over considerably.

Oddly, only three numbers in the concert were actually titled (Cathy Allen’s “Balm in Gilead,” Richard Havey’s “Names” and Erin Downey’s “The Cut.”) Everything else was identified solely by the choreographer’s name, which left the audience with a largely blank slate. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the guessing games got old after awhile.

Casting was affected by the dance department’s exchange program with the Korea National Sport University (KNSU), with whom UNLV produced “Together 3.” UNLV and KNSU dancers performed together in Las Vegas earlier this month, after Korean dancers had spent a week in the U.S. taking class and rehearsing. Now, the majority of UNLV’s department is in Korea doing the same.

This had less of an impact on “Entrances” than it might have on other productions. Because every piece was choreographed by someone different, this diversity was more the focus than the dancers themselves.

Howver, perhaps “diversity” isn’t the word. The concert, like most at UNLV, had a modern-contemporary tendency and many of the pieces seemed to have been cast from the same mold. Allen’s use of portable white benches added an element of interest to the first piece, and strong characters shone through in numbers by Marko Westwood and Ian Dodge.

Havey’s “Names” embodied his signature spins-and-skirts style and his choice of music in the Goo Goo Dolls tipped a hat to the audience’s appreciation of (a novel concept) music with words.

As alumni, Erin Downey and Cheryl Snow stood out as hard-hitting choreographers. Snow emphasized a lot with a little in her piece,  which featured a soloist and minimalist choreography. Isolation and musicality were evident and those are two things that can’t be faked.

Downey’s piece opened with chill-inducing synchronization from her four dancers and closed the show on a strong note. The movement was demanding, dynamic and serious and lent an inkling of old-school concert jazz.

UNLV faculty  would do well to branch out with what they’re nurturing in young choreographers, because there’s more out there than modern dance. It’s OK to choreograph to music with lyrics. Subject matter doesn’t have to be depressing to make an impression, and the average audience member will probably tell you that 50-minute concerts are awesome.

Check out the photos below or on Flickr and feel free to leave comments if you have ’em.

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Department of Dance recently joined forces with  dancers from the Korea National Sport University (KNSU), located in South Korea, for a production called “Together 3.” Together (get the pun?),  they performed the third installment of their co-choreographed concert series at the Judy Bayley Theatre on Oct. 1 and 2.

Cast of "Together 3"

Interestingly, collaboration seemed to be in short supply. Only one piece was actually comprised of dancers from both institutions and the two acts themselves were largely divided: only one piece in the first act was created by someone other than a UNLV faculty member. The second act was created entirely by KNSU choreographers.

"Glyph"One of the things that stood out the most was the lighting design. The production management program, run by Peter Jakubowski, is unique in that it allows students to study production elements (like lighting and sound) intensively. The student aspect resulted in much experimentation, most of which was positive. In this, the lighting design did exactly what it was supposed to: quietly exemplify the art onstage.

As far as dance elements go, the two acts were very different.

For UNLV, nondenominational modern was the mainstay. This was contrasted with KNSU’s sparkling ballet that battemented off the second act, followed by their own version of contemporary jazz and modern.


Granted, UNLV started the concert off strongly with “Glyph,” a jazz piece that had a sassy modern vibe, choreographed by Richard Havey. The staging and unison sections were excellent, indicating long and arduous rehearsals. The length of the piece was also appropriate and put the audience in mind of old-school concert dance, lending an auspicious start to the show.

Margot Mink Colbert’s “After the Waltz” was a dissonant, disconcerting piece that elicited a “hmm …” and a head-tip. The intent could have been made more clear, but the musicality on the part of the dancers was undeniable. The bright turquoise costumes were striking and added a strong visual element to a mildly cacophonous piece.

"After the Waltz"

“No Where to Call Home” and “Sojourner,” choreographed by Cathy Allen and Vikki Baltimore-Dale, respectively, epitomized college dance in some questionable ways. “No Where” was strong visually but was still reminiscent of a movie with underdeveloped characters: at the end of it, the audience isn’t quite sure it cares.

“Sojourner” had many of the elements of a strong number and did especially well for the male dancers. The music, as Dale’s often is, was viscerally exciting and withdrew a respectable response from the audience. However, its length went unjustified by the slightly less-than-hard-hitting energy behind the movement.

Louis Kavouras and James Jeon (the lone Korean creator in the first act) both stood out as strong choreographers. Kavouras’ “At First Sight” was an exuberant study of two rag-tag characters and a bench. The exaggerated interactions provided unexpected comedy and a lighthearted reprieve and the chemistry between dancers was evident.

Jeon’s “Moves” had a persistent urgency about it but began and ended in stillness, creating an interesting juxtaposition. Staging patterns were slightly muddy, but the floor-work and landings were, especially on the parts of the KNSU dancers, silent and precise. Overall, it continued along the contemplative, ethereal line of the rest of the first act.

“Mozart,” also choreographed by Jeon, opened the second act with pattering bourrées, smart temp de quise, pert echappes, delicate port de bras and pointework that seemed to pluck the music’s violin strings. The costumes were spectacular and the small corps was endearing in its earnestness. There were still small indicators of student-dom, but they were few and forgivable. The strong ballet was refreshing nonetheless.

“Paradise,” choreographed by Kim Hyun Nam, was a bright-eyed piece featuring strong character work, an exploration theme and bare feet. The strength of the dancers was evident and much of the animated choreography was simply adorable.

The last two pieces, “Impressions of Korea” and “Feel the Sweet Story,” featured sweeping dynamics and choreography from Baek Hyun Soon, James Jeon and Lee Ye Soon. The last piece segued into the finale and a hand-shaking affair between both schools.

The partnership between UNLV and KNSU has existed for a number of years and provides an international network for students in both departments. KNSU attendees come to the U.S. for a week, rehearse with UNLV dancers and take class, then perform in the concert in Vegas.

Now, UNLV dance students are hopping on a plane to South Korea, where they will go through the same thing in Seoul, the national capital.

There were a few small blips in the mechanics of the concert. Pauses in between numbers are understandable in some cases, but bringing the house lights up seems unnecessary. The overall length could have been shorter, although the pacing was fairly smooth.

Overall, the concert was certainly respectable. Keep an eye out for the gems: they’re in there.