The arts have always struggled to be acknowledged in Las Vegas. But one effort has maintained its foothold for 15 years. Now, that effort comes to Summerlin in the form of the Las Vegas Dance in the Desert Festival.
The 15th annual free event is slated for 7 to 9 p.m. July 26 and 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. July 27 at the Summerlin Library and Performing Arts Center, 1771 Inner Circle Drive. It is planned to include local, regional, national and international dancers who will introduce dance as an art form with a special emphasis on contemporary dance.
This is the first year Dance in the Desert does not enjoy support from the College of Southern Nevada and is at a new venue. New Dance Foundation for The Arts Inc. has been established to take over the administration and funding of the festival. The free attendance was made possible through the foundation’s partnership with the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District. A grant from Target and individual donors provided monetary assistance.
Kelly Roth is the director of CSN’s dance program and co-founder of the festival.
“It’s not like the commercial stuff you see on the Strip,” Roth said. “It has a different purpose than the (shows) on the Strip.”
Roth said the festival will have about 22 dance companies and involve approximately 80 dancers. Its purpose is to provide an outlet for one’s creativity, connect with others who live and breathe dance and to see firsthand what’s happening in the arts scene.
Dance companies are scheduled from other states, ensuring a variety of different dance approaches. The lineup includes Step’s Junk Funk of Tempe, Ariz.; Nicole Olson and Dancers of Phoenix, Ana Cuellar from Davenport, Fla.; Avocado Dance Theatre of Temecula, Calif.; and the Nannette Brodie Dance Theatre of Long Beach, Calif.
Roth is directing three dance groups: the CSN dance ensemble; the CSN dance company; and his own company, Kelly Roth and Dancers, which he started in New York City in 1978.
Blair Castro, 22, is one of his students. She plans to perform in two pieces. One is a tribute to Elvis Presley.
“It’s really cool because it’s Elvis but not a traditional Elvis,” she said. “It’s Elvis with an artistic twist to it. ... there are a couple of his signature moves in there, but yeah, it’s different.”
Her other piece is “Middle Child,” choreographed by Cynthia DuFault, choreographer of “The ’80’s Show” at Planet Hollywood Resort. Castro has not participated in Dance in the Desert before, but she’s done other shows. She said, for her, the behind-the-scenes activity was as much a part of an event as being on stage.
“The audience sees the dances and the elaborate costumes and things, but they don’t see the hustle and bustle that goes on backstage,” she said. “People running around, walking out of one costume and into another and doing hair and changing makeup, and you have to dress somebody while you’re dressing yourself and ... it’s really different but fun.”
When Roth co-founded the festival 15 years ago, it was with Kyla Quintero, a choreographer and dancer who worked on various shows on the Strip. Roth said he was motivated to hold that first festival because he wanted to keep his college students active, so they didn’t stop dancing for the three summer months when on break. Quintero, Roth said, saw it as a way to keep fellow dancers involved and motivated.
“Most dancers on the Strip start off with a lot of artistic aspirations, and she wanted to have a place for ... dancers who do the same show every night to have a creative outlet,” Roth said.
So, in 1999, the first festival was born. A couple of years later, Quintero was hit by a drunk driver. She suffered brain injuries and could no longer fully participate.
Roth grew the festival by first including dance groups from California and Arizona. These days, its farthest participant has been from Russia.
How art-savvy is Las Vegas?
“We have such a diverse population here,” Roth said. “We have people who come from the East who come here to retire who worked in corporations who are (familiar) with a more serious, more dedicated art scene. And you have people who really don’t get the difference between art and entertainment. And there are people who don’t generally think of Las Vegas as an arts capital. I know there are a lot of serious, dedicated artists in this city, and it’s hard to overcome our image as a place to go and behave irresponsibly. We still have a long way to go to be seen as an art capital, not because of a lack of artists but because of perception.”
For more information, call 702-507-3863 or visit newdancefoundation.org.
Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at email@example.com or 702-387-2949.