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Nevada Ballet Theatre

Ballet season-opener leaves room for improvement

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Jungle choreographed by Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Artistic Director James Canfield.
Photo: Jeff Speer

It’s always exciting to attend the first performance of a new ballet season—especially one that showcases the efforts of a new artistic director. If only the results had equaled the anticipation.

Last weekend, Nevada Ballet Theatre began its 38th season with one familiar work, Balanchine’s Rubies, and two NBT premieres choreographed by Artistic Director James Canfield,Coco and Jungle.

Rubies, set to Stravinsky’s “Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra,” is a ballet the company has performed before. Alissa Dale and Alexandra Christian repeated their assignments, layering new levels of sparkle and wit to their technically secure performances. Jeremy Bannon-Neches gave an impressively earnest performance as the male lead, but his serious demeanor did not mesh with either the choreographic or musical intent of the work.

The Details

Two and a half stars
Nevada Ballet Theatre’s Timeless Innovation
October 17
UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall

Balanchine’s dances are known for their difficult ensemble work, and companies that rise to the challenge often schedule them in successive seasons, understanding that the dancers need to grow and develop in the roles. Because half the company’s dancers are new, the corps reverted to square one. Although the dancers managed to hit their positions, their arms, head-angles and body positions were all over the place, lacking the precision needed to realize the ballet’s cheeky tone. For the short term, until this group’s members become more comfortable with one another, it might be best to put Balanchine ballets on the back-burner.

Coco uses recordings by Edith Piaf as a framework, firmly grounding the piece in an expression of angst and unrequited love, which Canfield unconvincingly puts forth as Chanel’s great tragedy. Considering she became a successful businesswoman and the 20th century’s greatest arbiter of fashion, Chanel appears to have gotten over it.

The closing ballet, Jungle, is an appealing, if dated, work set to electronic music by The Future Sound of London. Canfield’s Joffrey Ballet origins were on display here in the Arpino-esque choreography featuring much floor writhing and an overuse of hyperextensions. Nevertheless, dancers attacked the work with energy and would have captured the audience had the ballet had a definitive finish rather than just a fizzling ending.

Coco and Jungle highlighted both the strengths and weaknesses of Canfield’s choreography. The solos are competent within their limited step vocabulary; however, Canfield shines when crafting duets. In Jungle, the edgy, modern duet for an increasingly strong and precise Cameron Findley and Sarah Fuhrman used angular poses and aggressive movements to powerful effect.

Canfield’s ensemble choreography is less successful. Unlike the interlocking diverse elements seen in Balanchine, Canfield’s ensemble dancers either perform a succession of solos or execute the same movements all together in a balletic version of a Rockette kick-line.

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