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December 21, 2014

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DANCE:

Opener celebrates all that’s new with the Nevada Ballet

Image

Sam Morris

Alexandra Christian, left, Grigori Arakelyan and Rebecca Brimhall rehearse “Coco.” The piece is Nevada Ballet Theatre artistic director James Canfield’s intimate ballet on fashion designer Coco Chanel.

IF YOU GO

  • What: “Timeless Innovation”
  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Where: UNLV’s Artemus Ham Hall, UNLV
  • Tickets: $10-$75, 895-2787

Beyond the Sun

When Nevada Ballet Theatre opens its season Saturday with “Timeless Innovations,” audience members will get a taste of new artistic director James Canfield, if not a better understanding of who he is.

The program features the Las Vegas premiere of two of his ballets and of his new company — a reshaped and reconfigured Nevada Ballet.

Eleven new dancers have filled positions at the scaled-down company. Tiered hierarchies — principals, soloists and corps de ballet — have been replaced by a troupe exchanging solo and ensemble roles. Moreover, new members and Nevada Ballet dancers who stayed on know what to expect from the demanding, unapologetic and ambitious taskmaster, who is in his first full season with the company.

“Everyone is here because they want to be here,” Canfield said before a rehearsal Tuesday. “They know my standards and expectations and they get it. I couldn’t be happier. The energy, focus and integrity in the room is night and day from past experience.”

The restructuring happened last season when the company took a hit from the economy and from Canfield’s demand for superb athleticism and technique, which he calls “liquid steel.”

Canfield says he expects the company to do more than exist in Las Vegas. He expects it to “stand its place in the country, in the world.”

His reputation as a respected and risk-taking choreographer (merging edgy contemporary culture with classical ballet) has garnered him national attention and commissions with regional companies from coast to coast. He took his last company, Oregon Ballet Theater, to New York to perform in Manhattan’s Joyce Theater.

Nevada Ballet received 120 resumes for the new positions. Canfield, who says he prefers the “mail room success story” — apprentice to soloist — sought dancers demonstrating “intelligence, ability to communicate to an audience, willingness to be open to new ideas and adaptability to different discipline and styles.”

Only four of the 11 new dancers are new to him, he says. The rest he’s worked with in other dance companies performing his choreography.

Featured dancers for Saturday and Sunday’s showcase-heavy “Timeless Innovation” include Alexandra Christian, Jeremy Bannon-Neches and Alissa Dale in “Rubies,” Balanchine’s upbeat, jazzy number in deep red and set to Stravinsky.

Rebecca Brimhall performs the title role of “Coco,” Canfield’s intimate ballet on fashion designer Coco Chanel. Focusing on her career and lovers, it includes the music of Edith Piaf and 1940s style couture.

The program ends with Canfield’s “Jungle,” an exotic and visually vibrant ballet inspired by survival in an urban jungle and set to the music of Future Sound of London. Its costumes and backdrop were painted by artist Tom Cramer. Canfield says “Jungle,” featuring solos, duets and trios, will have a lot of new faces, many of whom have been with the company, but never out front.

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