Test for UNLV dance students is performing

Think about the exams you took in school. Now imagine taking those exams in public as your teachers, family and even a smattering of strangers peek over your shoulder and critique your answers.

It'll be sort of like that today through Saturday when University of Nevada, Las Vegas student choreographers present their work during "Spring Blend," a dance concert by UNLV's Dance Department at Alta Ham Fine Arts Hall.

The concert will feature 11 pieces created by junior and senior dance majors at UNLV.

Ashley Wilkerson's original piece, "Drop Break Dive," is the third she has choreographed for student concerts at UNLV.

The first time she choreographed a piece for a concert was "really intimidating, because choreography is much different than performing," she admits. "Performing, you can go out there and you're pretty sure of your ability, whereas choreography, you're putting yourself out there. So, definitely, it was intimidating the first time around."

But, she says, "I'm really proud of, and very happy with, my piece."

Wilkerson, 22, is a senior who will graduate in May with a degree in dance. Her immediate goal will be to pursue a career as a dancer.

"I would love to perform while I can. Obviously, as a dancer, you only have a limited amount of time you can do that," she says. "Afer that, I'd love to choreograph, so this is a great experience for me."

Louis Kavouras, chairman of UNLV's dance department, says concerts featuring student-created works are a staple of the school's performing calendar.

"Each semester, we have works that are done by primarily our bachelor of fine arts majors," he says. "We have a pretty strong choreography sequence, so the last part of the sequence is, they have two courses where they develop works, putting all of their choreographic skills in motion, literally."

The student choreographers whose works audiences will see this weekend are "quite talented," Kavouras adds. All have workshopped their pieces throughout the semester, receiving feedback from faculty members in order to develop them.

Some pieces "change quite a bit" throughout the process, Kavouras says, "and, much of the time, the piece informs the choreography. You set out to make this kind of dance and all of a sudden you end up taking a little different route."

This weekend's concerts will take place in Dance Studio One of the Ham Fine Arts building, "a much more intimate venue, which is kind of nice," Kavouras says. "You feel really close to the dancers and close to the pieces."

"We're also doing this one in the round," he adds, which "is good for the students. We actually did it to challenge the students so that they would create works that had to be sort of full-front."

Kavouras says audiences are supportive of student works, even though, as with any performing art, predicting how any particular audience will respond is tricky.

Sometimes, Kavouras says, the quiet pieces have the most impact, and "sometimes, later you find out that the piece that is the audience favorite is not the one that gets talked about a week later or is not the one people remember."

Whatever happens, it's likely to be a memorable night for students.

Because their works are presented to audiences, "it's like (taking) your exams in front of the entire public and the entire dance community," Kavouras says. "So they do take it quite seriously and not just sort of study the day before the test."

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.