Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, a repertory company known for its passionate, diverse, and highly athletic dancing, is performing at Nazareth College Arts Center on Valentine's Day. This is a company that embraces many styles of dance, but LVCDT's Nazareth program will emphasize neo-classical ballet, which utilizes classical ballet vocabulary while working within less rigid boundaries – contemporary and jazz.
Artistic director and co-founder Bernard H. Gaddis stressed LVCDT's humanistic bent when speaking with City last week.
"Our dances are about real life," he said. "Real people. They speak to love, loss, and betrayal. Audiences should be going through a whole array of emotions when they are in a theater. They should go on a journey."
Gaddis is a man who has journeyed to the top of his field. A highly accomplished and distinctive dancer, he choreographs a large percentage of his company's works. At 15, he became the youngest male dancer ever to be asked to join Philadelphia Dance Company. He was awarded scholarships to, among others, Dance Theater of Harlem and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he performed as a principal dancer for seven years. He was a lead dancer in Broadway's "Lion King," choreographed by Rochester's Garth Fagan, and has had ballets created or recreated for him to perform by Ailey, Fagan, Judith Jamison, Jerome Robbins, and Ulysses Dove, to name a few. Currently, he is also a principal dancer and choreographer for Cirque Du Soleil's Las Vegas shows "Zumanity" and "Mystère."
The dancers in his company complement each other with a host of varied backgrounds, along with a slew of accomplishments and qualifications. Members have appeared on the popular television shows "America's Got Talent" and "Dancing With the Stars." Others have performed for Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas. Many have classical ballet backgrounds. Gaddis credits them all with working to convey his vision.
"As I go forward in my artistry, I'm finding I have more and more of my own voice and energy," he said. "The dancers adapt to my type of energy and the way that I move. As I grow as a choreographer and my voice changes, they adapt. That stamps our identity as a company."
LVCDT is the first non-profit, contemporary dance company in Las Vegas. As a repertory company, it is dedicated to preserving and presenting the work of generations of artists, choreographers, and teachers. The dancers also focus on showcasing emerging talent in a broad spectrum of dance styles. And in its quest to bridge cultural divides, the company is involved in outreach programs to benefit at-risk youth.
Now in its eighth year, the 14-member company performs the work of a wide array of artists, including Ulysses Dove, Elisa Monte, and Jamal Story. The Nazareth program, however, will be all Gaddis. The company will be dancing three pieces he choreographed, and Gaddis will be soloing in a fourth. "Solstice," created by him three years ago, seems well suited for wintery Rochester. In this 28-minute work with music by George Winston, dancers depict creatures in the forest on the night of the winter solstice.
"During that quiet, moonlit time, when, perhaps, the snow is undisturbed, the dancers take on a deer, a rabbit, a snow leopard, a Mother Nature figure," Gaddis described. "The mood of each section leads to how I feel an animal moves."
"Brethren" (2001), also on the program, sounds beautiful and solemn as well. Gaddis will perform a short excerpt, "Gabriel Sorrow," from this all-male, neo-classical ballet based on the Biblical character Enoch and his fall from grace. Music is by Hans Zimmer.
Gaddis's other two pieces will offer a change in energy and tempo. "Take 5" will be a world premiere of a 24-minute ballet about relationships, with costumes inspired by the Harlem Renaissance and music by Nick Waterhouse, Leela James, Melody Gardot, and Booker T and the MG's.
"It's a saucy ballet," Gaddis told City. "Hot, fun and spicy."
"Mood Indigo (Mood Azul)," with music by Dave Brubeck, Hipnosis and Marc Frank, and Gaddis himself, will be the sole jazz piece of the night. This work highlights the company's high-speed technical ability, plus it's upbeat and sexy. A great way to end the night.