★★★★☆ - Delicious
Kelly Roth & Dancers presented a vibrant, free concert recently at Summerlin Library, co-sponsored by Las Vegas Clark County Library District and New Dance Foundation for the Arts, Inc. Roth casually spoke to the audience between pieces during the first act, not only to kill time for set and costume changes but also to educate about what we were seeing onstage. He is the Director of the CSN Dance Program, after all, and also happens to be a professor with a keen sense of humor.
“Did you ever think you’d see Colonel Sanders dance like that?” he joked after opening the show with the premiere of his solo “Sayings of Super Cookie,” dedicated to his mentor Murray Louis. Decked out in a bowler hat, striped shirt, and tuxedo coat, Roth dances with a jazzy, whimsical flair and brings to mind a Charlie Chaplin-ish mime. Set to the music of Francisco Tarrega arranged by Mike Oldfield, the panpipe synth sounds also give the piece an eerie, music-box feel.
Roth dedicated “Hernaeus & Taphea, part three” (1991) to early modern dancer Isadora Duncan, who was inspired by the ancient Greeks. Set to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a satyr chases a beautiful maiden, and three statue-like girls in diaphanous dresses transform into fountains by standing in kiddie pools and pouring water out of plastic jugs. It’s a comical piece and it’s fun to see the simple movements of sweeping arms, hops, and poses as Duncan might have performed them a century ago.
The elegant Yoomi Lee graced us with her pure, uncomplicated portrayal of “The Dying Swan,” Mikhail Fokine’s 1905 classic piece set to music by Camille Saint-Saens. Lee seems to float on raw emotion as she bourées across the stage, her expression growing more and more sorrowful and her undulating arms as wings frantic yet graceful as the fateful moment nears.
Roth composed “A Trimbling” (2017) in memory of Mary Trimble, a longtime Las Vegas violist who was slain during a robbery in her home. Set to Sergei Prokofiev’s “String Quartet No. 1” performed live by the pristine UNLV Graduate String Quartet (Dmytro Nehrych and Yestyn Griffith on Violin, Tobias Roth on Viola, and Adam Stiber on cello), it's a piece in three movements that begins brightly and ends somberly, presumably echoing Trimble’s life. Being abstract in style it isn’t always accessible, and among dancers there’s a noticeable unevenness in experience and training. Still, performers are well-matched and in sync in individual groupings, they all give the piece a palpable poignancy of feeling, and there are some lovely pairings which feature difficult angular lifts and tender gestures.
During the hypnotic “Interlopian Tubes” (2016) the intuitive beauty of the postmodern tradition shines through Roth’s fluid choreography and the dynamic dancing of Carrie L. Miles, Yoomi Lee, Jennifer Roberts, Kaylee Hannig, and Christina Stockdale. Set to the atmospheric music of David Longstreth, Louis Andriessen, and Evan Ziporyn, the piece features the paintings of Emily McIlroy--which resemble internal female organs--projected on the backdrop, and lit tubes onstage out of which dancers emerge. They each perform an intricate, unique solo that captures some aspect of the female experience, or maybe a different aspect of one woman who may or may not be dreaming. It’s a stunning, sleeper of a dance.
Roth’s “Iron Rod” (2006) features the magical iron rod as the pathway to the Tree of Life. Thor Ellyk’s music gives a dreamy, cinematic sound as the dancers move in different groupings, carrying and balancing their rods, doing extensions and sissones under a single beam of light shining down.
“Elegy to Murray” (2016) is another ode to Louis, with Roth dancing a contemplative piece by embodying thoughts, emotions, and memories as his son Tobias Kremer Roth plays Igor Stravinsky on violin. And Roth presents his version of Fokine’s 1911 ballet burlesque “Petrushka” (2016) set to Stravinsky’s music with costumes after Alexandre Benois’ originals by Cynthia DuFault. Hannig plays the rag doll puppet Petrushka, Miles dances the ballerina puppet doll with whom Petrushka is in love, Lorenzo Valoy portrays the handsome Moor puppet who Ballerina fancies, and Daniel Mendoza is the Magician who owns them all. It’s delightfully danced and mimed in a puppet-like way, captures the vintage Ballet Russes flair, and is a fitting, fun finale.
Kudos to other dancers who give their all, including Ariadna Ramirez, Makena Kimani, Chaslina Cress, and Alexis Portillo; to lighting designers Roth and jody Caley; to costume designers Catherine Sterle, Audrey Ketchell, and DuFault; to set designer Staci Walters; and to video editors Roth and Jeremiah Johnson.