Updated: Oct 13, 2020
★★★★★ - Irresistible
With their “10th Year Anniversary Celebration” the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater came full circle in early September, giving an emotional, final performance on the same stage at West Las Vegas Library where they have given many free concerts for the public through the years, in co-sponsorship with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. But the multicultural company, which has a repertoire of over 40 ballets, is not shutting down. Far from it. As founding artistic director Bernard H. Gaddis explained to the audience during a break between dance pieces, it’s time for the company to “think out of the box and continue to grow and evolve.”
Which means going global--though the company will be headquartered here--and “branching out past Las Vegas” to “obtain new followers” and to make a name for themselves on the national and international stage. Hence the new motto “The end of an era and the beginning of a new one,” and the brand new company name Contemporary West Dance Theatre which becomes official on January 1, 2018.
The ten performers--Marie-Joe Tabet, Eddie Otero, Abdiel Figueroa, Josie Camp, Adrianna Rosales, Rachel Murray, Avree Walker, Matthew Palfenier, Maria Vicuna-McGovern, and Ashley Gezana--danced their hearts out with such emotional intensity that their last concert under the LVCDT moniker felt especially meaningful.
Which is apropos since the search for spiritual meaning and connection seems to be a theme in associate artistic director and original company member Tabet’s compelling ballet “Disassociated,” which had its world premiere at the show.
Set to Kanye West’s gospel tune “Ultralight Beam” and the music of Max Richter, the piece has a futuristic, apocalyptic feel, with a red backdrop and hazy streams of sepulchral lights shining on dancers as West sings “this is a God dream, this is everything.” They move in angular, slow-motion pairings and poses and weave in and out of each other as if trying to connect but not really knowing how. On Friday the piece was at first disjointed with dancers seeming to lose their place, but it slowly began flowing together and built momentum to a powerful conclusion as dancers moved as one organism while reaching and pleading, and then fell abruptly to the floor like dominoes one after the other to dramatic effect. Veteran company member Otero plays a Christ-like figure; he has the amazing ability to embody charismatic archetypes like the spiritual shaman and the sensuous man. And Gezana’s luminous eyes pierce eerily through the haze.
Gaddis also enjoyed a world premiere with his sophisticated ballet “Stolen Moments,” set to music by Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter, Hans Zimmer, and Alvo Noto. A hypnotic work of art, the piece features three couples who begin with an intimate, repeating gesture as each turns to gently touch their neighbor and so on down the line. The dancing is beautiful yet also athletic with difficult acrobatic lifts expressing the emotional dynamic of couples in various complex pairings coming together, splitting apart, and then back again. Tabet and Walker create a fiery backstory as a couple with a painful relationship which draws us like moths to a flame because it’s a collective experience to which we can reluctantly relate, while Palfenier and Vicuna-McGovern show off their pure lines. Otero does a solitary dance, and there’s a neat bit where a couple moves from one spotlight to the next as they duet across the stage.
There’s a clarity of feeling to Gaddis’ ballet “Mood Azul,” set to the music of Dave Brubeck and Marc Frank, that brings to mind a cool ocean breeze on a warm summer night. Idealized romanticism with an exuberant mood, the dancing is lyrical, jazzy, and oh-so-delicate. The sound and look is ethereal and airy, with multiple layers of blue including the girls’ long dresses that carve shapes as they float in space. Lighting designer Sandra Fong has a wonderful talent for enhancing the look of the dancers--their creamy skin shimmers and the whites of their eyes glow. And smooth Eddie Otero shines again when the piece takes on a Latin flair and he performs a sensuous salsa with a wink, a sincere laugh, and the flick of a hand.
“Mood Azul” makes us feel contentment, happiness, and peace. Seems like a great place to leave the legacy of LVCDT.