Laughter Through Dance

For any arts group — and particularly for a young, not-for-profit arts group — half of the battle lies in merely getting noticed.

And, for Southern Nevadans who aren’t yet familiar with Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, a free performance by the troupe Saturday at West Las Vegas Library may be just the proper introduction.

Bernard H. Gaddis certainly hopes so, anyway.

Gaddis is artistic director and co-founder of Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater. His professional background includes performing in Cirque du Soleil’s "Zumanity" and the Los Angeles production of "The Lion King," as well as time spent as a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

The company has 12 members and, Gaddis says, has performed in Canada, Mexico, Chicago and New York, as well as in Southern Nevada.

"Our company is what we call a repertory company," Gaddis explains. "We won’t just do one style of dance. We do dances from many different choreographers and from many different styles. So, we’re a company for everybody.

"We try to be accessible to people, and we dance about the human spirit and we dance about being human."

Saturday’s performance will offer excerpts from a few of the pieces the company will perform during its spring concert series event, scheduled for May 6-9 at Summerlin Library. All, Gaddis says, are lighthearted, comedic excerpts chosen "to try to make people laugh."

"Somewhere in the Corners of My Mind" is about a man recalling the people "who have touched him somewhere in his life," Gaddis says, with humor arising from his attempts to recapture the carefree attitude of childhood.

"America," Gaddis says, revolves around "some of the great songs people love, from Reba McEntire to John Mayer to Tracy Chapman."

And "Rhythm 101" is about "rhythms and beats," Gaddis says, and is "sort of a fun and upbeat piece" that incorporates dancers "doing fun dances."

A question and answer session with Gaddis and the cast is scheduled after the performance.

Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater is a not-for-profit troupe, Gaddis says, and "a lot of the dancers have been with me since the beginning.

"I have a company who is really dedicated to concert dance. And they know you don’t make a lot of money, but the hardest thing for us is not so much the dancing and doing the performances, it’s the fact of not getting funding from anyone."

In Southern Nevada, the company performs mostly at library venues, and Gaddis says ticket prices for its regular season performances are kept "very low for the community," typically in the $15 to $30 range.

Keeping the troupe afloat remains "challenging," Gaddis says. However, on a more upbeat note, Gaddis says members of the community increasingly are discovering the young company.

"We find our audience grows every year, and that’s the great thing about it," he says. "We have people who come back to every single performance and say, ‘We haven’t missed a performance yet.’ "

Gaddis hopes such enthusiasm will ripen, sooner rather than later, into financial support for the young troupe.

But, in the meantime, he says, "the creative process is rewarding, and being onstage watching my dancers live out their dreams and give their artistry to the audience, that is the most rewarding moment for me."

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

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