★★★★☆ - Delicious
The UNLV Department of Dance gave a vibrant spring dance concert “Cycles of Motion” this past weekend at the Judy Bayley Theatre, and it showcased an emphasis on diversity by presenting the works of diverse choreographers which were created on the UNLV dancers themselves. The packed audience serendipitously continued the theme and were certainly appreciative of the inspiring program which included ballet, modern, tap, and even swing.
“Blowout” is a contemporary ballet choreographed by James Jeon and JiYeon Kim to the music of Philip Glass, J. S. Bach, and John Adams. It examines the nature of emotions such as anger which are commonly perceived as negative yet which are helpful to experience as healthy channels for catharsis. The expressive dancers Mandie Evans, Zachary Frongillo, Malik Gray, Kalie McLaughlin, Cosette Richardson, and Laura Schaffer created a beautiful stage picture with their poses in elegant black, Fossesque costumes by Chris Lawson under the at first sepia toned, shadowy lights of Tyler Wolfe that transitioned into cold starkness and then to warm reds. The talented ensemble fluidly depicted feelings we can all identify with, from the silent scream of rage which emanated from the gut of one passionate male dancer and escaped despite continual attempts at repression to the self-slapping that many of the dancers practiced perhaps in gestures of self-hatred. Moves were abrupt and angular and included a perfectly performed acrobatic pas de trois and a moment of connection where the dancers formed a circle led by the angry man, and collectively released their emotions to the skies.
“Out of Gridlock” by Rachel Berman choreographed to the Latin guitar stylings of Rodrigo y Gabriela, is an athletic modern piece danced by an ensemble of 17. About the “cogs” in a wheel that keep a busy city operating, the dancers wore black blazers over colorful tanks to evoke business suits (by Chris Larson) and give the feeling of soulless uniformity, and the flicks of their movements often matched the chords of the guitars. Tribal and geometric there were ever-changing groupings, linear formations and dancers falling like dominoes in cool configurations.
“Une Petite Suite” is a whimsical, acrobatic ballet in three movements choreographed by Margot Mink Colbert and well-matched dancers Frongillo, Dannii Moore, Richardson, Schaffer, and Jesus Solis to the original music of Beth Mehocic. A playful parody it was inspired by the 19th century ballroom era and by the 1938 short ballet Gaîté Parisienne of Jacques Offenbach. The fun black and red costumes of Lawson stood out against the shadowy, blue lighting and backdrop of Skylar Feist, and with the acrobatics the piece sometimes had a circus high-wire feel. There was graceful waltzing and plenty of limber grand jeté-ing, and the boys performed numerous fouettés. And there were quirky duets, contact improvisation, and an exuberant can-can kickline.
“At first, there’s just darkness and silence” is a hypnotic, contemporary piece by Jason Parsons choreographed to the ambient sounds of Eluvium. It featured the powerful, sinewy dancing of Lonnie Chaney III, Gray, Kristina Hakobyan, Dakota Miller, and Lay’la Rogers, with the girls in rich, blue-slitted dresses (by Larson) against the moody lighting of Stacy Burger. Athletic and emotive, the stunning dancers undulated organically together, empowering each other as if they were a tiny though meaningful part of a never-ending universe.
“It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing” is a cheerful Lindy-Hop, tap combination choreographed by Richard Harvey with ballroom choreography by Jashua Manzano set to the music of Duke Ellington. Quick-moving and snazzy the piece felt disjointed at times when dancers lost their place, though they never lost their infectious buoyancy. They snapped, clapped, and tapped the time step in unison, and though abilities were mixed a few tappers were especially skilled.
“Strangers on the Street” is a six-part, evocative modern piece choreographed by Cathy Allen to the music of Kevin Keller, Lucovico Einaudi, and many others. Based on the book and internet blog “Humans of New York” by Brandon Stanton, it explores the universality and beauty of human feelings and experiences. Gorgeous and mesmerizing, the piece was filtered through thick theatrical haze and the dreamy lighting of Yuta Kataoka, which set a heavenly yet post-apocalyptic tone. It opened with one radiant young woman full of feminine power dancing poignantly alone and ended in the same way, after much dynamic street business in between. There were numerous pairings and a lovers duet full of extensions and poses, and the ensemble moved together as if one whole, symbiotic organism. A painter decorated the body of a dancer while she posed and moved diagonally across the stage, as if she were a work of art in progress that we were lucky enough to have witnessed. And there was a cleverly choreographed variation on the chair dance, brilliantly performed on a rolling office stool by a young man of immense control, power, expression, and wild hair as a symbolic extension of his talent.
“Cycles of Motion” was an evocative show featuring dancers, choreographers, and technicians of diverse talent.