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September 2, 2014

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No tutus zone: Bold new steps for Nevada Ballet

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Leila Navidi

Kalin Morrow is lifted during during Nevada Ballet Theatre’s dress rehearsal for “An Incandescent Start,” part of the show “Brave New World” at Artemus Ham Hall on the campus of UNLV in Las Vegas Friday, March 26, 2010.

They didn't post a sign declaring tights and tutus obsolete, but Nevada Ballet Theatre's two weekend programs called "Brave New World" definitely declared that business-as-usual is over for this increasingly strong and sophisticated troupe.

Nevada Ballet Theatre's Brave New World

Jeremy Bannon-Neches and Rebecca Brimhall perform during Nevada Ballet Theatre's dress rehearsal for Launch slideshow »

"An Incandescent Start" was the first of three new dances that received world premieres at UNLV's Ham Hall on Saturday and Sunday. Thaddeus Davis developed the piece with the Nevada Ballet dancers, and the result, set to a percussive, occasionally abrasive score by cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, was a sequence of inventive movements, unconventional lifts and arrangements of limbs. The dancers expressed alertness and alarm with push-and-pull tensions, physically mapping the music, attaining and maintaining extreme and beautifully sculptural poses, rolling back and rocking forward and sliding across the floor on their bellies, like penguins on ice. The musculature of the dancers was accentuated by the stark sidelighting and the short, sleeveless tunics in autumnal Banana Republic-style shades.

If the portentousness and non-narrative qualities of that pure-dance work jarred or perplexed the ballet's stalwart fan base, they surely were comforted by the second act, Gail Gilbert's staging of "Song of the Nightingale," a charming and brief story ballet set to Igor Stravinsky's "Le Chant du Rossignol."

Alexandra Christian delicately evoked the Nightingale that enchants the Emperor, danced by an emotionally expressive Griffin Whiting, himself mirrored and shadowed by the Spirit of Death, articulately danced by Jeremy Bannon-Neches.

The best was saved for last: the debut of "Cyclical Night," by artistic director James Canfield, set to contemporary tango music by Astor Piazzolla. Canfield cast his ensemble as louche characters in a dancehall, and as the lighting progressively deepened in tones of red, they combined the heated passion and eroticism of tango with the delicacy and form of classical ballet. The dancers — and the audience, which gave it a standing ovation — really seemed to enjoy this work, with its witty and allusive duets and trios, including a pas de deux between Cameron Findley and Griffin Whiting, the strongest expression of male-male partnering I've seen on any stage.

— Originally published in Las Vegas Weekly

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