Ambitious Approach

Don’t think of it merely as the Nevada Ballet Theatre’s 2008-2009 season. Think of it as a very entertaining, season-long introductory course in dance.

With no final exam.

That’s because this season’s diverse slate of offerings by Nevada’s largest professional dance company will satisfy both balletgoing veterans and beginners with everything from classical to cutting-edge dances created by George Balanchine and today’s hottest choreographers, set to music by composers from Tchaikovsky to George Gershwin and accompanied by musical forms that include Baroque and African-inspired rhythms.

James Canfield, the company’s interim artistic director, is excited about this season’s offerings, mostly because it serves the mandate of what he calls dance’s “two E’s: education and entertainment.”

In assembling any season, “the hope is that the audience will be educated and entertained,” he said. “That’s just key for me.”

Balletgoers who attend this season’s performances will be able to survey the breadth of dance both traditional and contemporary. February’s all-Balanchine program alone, Canfield said, will include pieces from the ’30s to the ’70s, “and you’re going to leave singing music you know: Gershwin.”

The season schedule includes:

* “Giselle,” (Oct. 17-19), a full-length piece about love and redemption that is considered one of the greatest and best-loved classical Romantic ballets.

* “A Choreographer’s Showcase” (Nov. 9 and 16), a collaboration of Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil at Treasure Island’s Mystere Theater that will feature new works created and danced by artists from both companies.

* “The Nutcracker” (Dec. 17-28), the annual return of the holiday favorite.

* An “All-Balanchine Program” (Feb. 6 and 7), presented with the Las Vegas Philharmonic, features three Balanchine ballets, the new-to-the-company “Serenade” and “Concerto Barocco” and the return of “Who Cares?” a 1970 piece set to Gershwin’s music that is Balanchine’s tribute to Broadway.

* “American Masters” (April 10 and 11), features works from contemporary choreographers and includes the Las Vegas premiere of Canfield’s “Neon Glass Pas de Deux” and a return of Val Caniparoli’s “Lambarena.” The latter, presented by the company last year, is a fusion of classical ballet, African song and movement, and the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The program will feature guest artists from the New York City Ballet.

* “New Works ’09” (May 15-17) caps off the season with a newly commissioned piece by Canfield and works by cutting-edge contemporary choreographers.

This year’s season arrives on the heels of the company’s performance earlier this month at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where Nevada Ballet Theatre represented Nevada at the center’s 24th annual Open House Arts Festival.

That performance, as well as this season’s varied offerings, represent the latest stages in the continuing evolution of Nevada Ballet Theatre. First, Canfield noted that companies that offer an eclectic repertoire are “companies dancers sort of want to migrate to.”

In addition, a strong and varied season can help to lure new audience members who, perhaps, entertain a limited vision of what “dance” is, Canfield said, and also can help to “elevate, educate and entertain” regular balletgoers.

In fact, strike that “Two E’s” thing. “Now,” Canfield said, laughing, “it’s three E’s.”

Except for “A Choreographer’s Showcase,” Nevada Ballet Theatre productions take place at the Judy Bayley Theatre and Artemus Ham Hall at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway. For more information, visit the company’s Web site (www.nevadaballet.com) or call 243-2623.

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

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