Contrary to the national perception that dance in Las Vegas exists only in production shows on the Strip, dance companies of all sizes and disciplines perform regularly in local venues, from theaters on college campuses to small stages at local libraries and community centers. One of the recent highlights of the local dance scene, however, has been the unique collaboration between the high-concept Cirque du Soleil and the classically oriented Nevada Ballet Theatre.
Last year, the two organizations came together for the first Choreographers’ Showcase, a program of all-new works choreographed by members of the various performing groups. Cirque had long wished to support fellow artists at Nevada Ballet Theatre and welcomed the collaboration, as it also furthered the company’s involvement in the Las Vegas arts community as a whole. Since the 2007 event played to a sold-out house, even without any advertising or much promotion, they agreed that the 2008 show should have two public showings. All proceeds from the event will go to Nevada Ballet Theatre to support performances and educational projects.
Artists from all five resident Cirque shows and the entire roster of NBT dancers will participate this year; 10 of these artists (five from each company) will choreograph. All 10 works will be original world premieres, ranging from small duets to large-scale corps work, and will include a mix of dance styles, including traditional ballet, modern and lyrical jazz, among others.
The Nevada Ballet Theatre choreographers from last year include: the introspective Zeb Nole, who will work with dancers from KÀ; Krista Baker, whose dance last year demonstrated a gift for working with large groups of dancers; and the broad step vocabulary and clear emotional impact offered by Racheal Hummel-Nole. The new NBT choreographers are popular soloists David Ligon and Jared Hunt. Ligon’s dancing has a breezy, All-American style, with a solid technique upon which to build good dances. Hunt, although known mostly for his bravura technique and good-humored portrayals, has displayed a gift for exploring a more intense and dramatic side of his personality, most recently as Albrecht in NBT’s production of Giselle.
The West African dance- and jazz-influenced Khetanya Henderson and Pendu Malik from LOVE, the lyrical jazz stylings of Stephan Reynolds from O and popular Venezuelan dancer Antonio Drija from Zumanity will be among those representing Cirque. The final Cirque choreographer, however, is perhaps the best known. Bernard Gaddis from Mystère is also the founder and artistic director of Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater. Gaddis’ work is recognized for its emotional intensity and fluid grace, which he combines with strength and spectacular technique.
The first-quality Cirque technical team at Treasure Island’s Mystère Theater will again support and enhance the creative possibilities presented by this talented group of performers. The industry has long acknowledged Cirque for the originality of its lighting, projection and sound work, and audiences can expect that much of this high-end technical equipment and prowess will be in evidence.
Treasure Island President Tom Mikulich and the Cirque organization have made the theater available for the two Sunday performances, along with a special world-premiere performance for 1,600 local area students, including participants from Future Dance, Nevada Ballet Theatre’s education and outreach program. “Perhaps the best part of our collaboration,” says Cirque Director of Global Citizenship Karen Gay, “is when we see the inspired faces of 1,000 Clark County school children who will be the first to experience this event.”