Updated: Oct 13, 2020
★★★★☆ - Delicious
The name may have changed but the sublime artistry remains the same. Contemporary West Dance Theatre (previously known as Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater) presented their Spring Concert Series at West Las Vegas Library recently, giving free performances co-sponsored by The Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. Well worth the complimentary price of admission, the company premiered three original pieces choreographed by founding artistic director Bernard H. Gaddis.
Gaddis is a masterful storyteller with an eye for dramatic detail, astute choice of music, and ability to blend diverse forms of dance on dancers well-versed in the language of movement. His evocative compositions transported us through time and space to places limited only by our own imaginations.
The first offering was the luxuriant ballet "Lakmé," which shares its name with the 1883 opera by Léo Delibe, set in British India about an Indian girl who falls for a British officer with tragic results. Delibe's exquisite song "Flower Duet" set the tone for this organic and atmospheric work, with exuberant dancers wearing velvety, emerald green dresses as they moved against a green backdrop in a layering of hues to suggest nature.
Sweeping port de bras with pivot arabesques and graceful pirouettes blended seamlessly into Lester Horton style movements of deep pliés, angular limbs, and flexed feet in a way that subtly evoked traditional Indian dance. There was a gorgeous intensity to the partnering of Maria Vicuna McGovern and Matthew Palfenier with their pretty penchés and difficult lifts, though on opening night some of those lifts seemed awkward and the ensemble as a whole were often out of sync. But where there are flowers there are bees, and one performer (Adrianna Rosales, perhaps) embodied the bug and danced a charming and humorous solo in an inspired bit set to Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee."
Gaddis' emotionally devastating "Fractured Space" swept us to a long-ago time in a far-away place, where something horrible has happened to make people question their faith. In the vein of a Horton choreodrama the piece has a stark, hazy, monochromatic look which reminds of an old silent movie, and is set to the music of Yann Tierson, David M. Frost, and Antonio Vivaldi. The powerful narrative made huge psychological and physical demands on featured dancers Rosales, Rachel Murray-Young, and Palfenier, who put on their acting chops to give stunning performances.
The very spiritual first part of the piece featured Rosales as a woman wearing a black mourning dress trimmed with Spanish lace, grieving and praying at the altar of a church as beams of light streamed through stained glass. The second half featured Palfenier and Murray-Young as a man and a woman who is in the throes of a nervous breakdown, performing an agonizing relationship duet full of strained lifts and pained gestures that built in intensity to a shocking end. Both riveting and mind-blowing, it'll be exciting to see the finished version of this work in progress.
While "Fractured Space" kept the audience riveted to their seats, the rousing "Havana" had people clapping and on their feet. The jazzy music of Brett Gold, Chucho Valdes, and Ibrahim Ferreer helps set the ambience of a hot and steamy night in Cuba, when a group of dancers come together to impress with their moves in a nightclub or on the streets. The amazing Eddie Otero stole the spotlight during this piece, with his suave cha-cha-chá, spicy shoulder shimmies, and pelvic gyrations thrilling the crowd. There was a funny dance-off between him and Gaddis, as well as a sultry and hypnotic duet between Gaddis and Vicuna-McGovern.
The entire ensemble created feisty, believable characters, and the colorful, ruffled costumes by Murray-Young were spot-on.
Kudos to dancers not mentioned--Marie-Joe Tabet, Josie Therese Camp, Ashley Gezana, and Edward Salas--for their excellent work, and to technicians Erina Noda and Jessica Agar who designed the sumptuous costumes with Murray- Young, and lighting designer Sandra Fong who always completes the beautiful stage pictures of each piece, and knows how to light dancers so they glow.
Don't miss the chance to catch Contemporary West Dance Theatre's next free concert at the library. It's a price that can't be beat.
Pictured: Maria Fernanda Vicuna-McGovern
Photo by: Jason Skinner Photography