Nevada Ballet Theatre climaxes season with wide-ranging ‘American Masters’

Such events occur only seven times in a blue moon.

Count six of them as bonus moons.

"You’d be surprised at how many versions of that song are out there — I went on the Internet and found about 85," says James Canfield, artistic director of Nevada Ballet Theatre, which climaxes its season with an eclectic "American Masters" finale. The program includes Canfield’s own ballet, "Up," set to seven distinctly different interpretations of "Blue Moon."

You know the Rodgers and Hart hit: Blue Moon, you saw me standing all by my lonesome, searching like a son-of-a-gun for a dream in my heart, really bummed without a love of my own. Etcetera. Etcetera. Canfield’s kids will put the moves to stylistic takes on the tune from pop confections to torchy laments.

"The thought was to put a compilation of them together that went from something more extroverted to more introverted and do it as a showcase for eight dancers," Canfield says. "Some are musical interpretations where you get just instruments, to male-to-female voice to doo-wop to smoky Billie Holiday to the seduction of the Cowboy Junkies. It has a lot of different emotional elements, so it takes the audience on a journey through each interpretation."

No mooning over major song interpreters of the past 50-plus years? "I heard all of the Sinatras and the Bennetts, but they just didn’t work for what I was trying to do," Canfield says, dropping a few hints on the visual buffet his ballet will serve up in "Up."

"The moon being something that comes out at night, in the first section they come out of silhouette. As the moon becomes brighter, more light is shed on the universe, and whether it’s a group of five (dancers) or a solo or a duet, there’s an anticipation of what may come. And each section comes out a different color, like the opening is set against red and orange and pink and yellow, and hopefully also exemplifies the spirit and emotion of the song interpretation. And I use costume coloring as well to make it very peaceful and Zen."

And as per the Lorenz Hart lyrics of "Blue Moon," Canfield’s "Up" ends up thoroughly upbeat, as there suddenly appeared before me, the only one my arms will ever hold, I heard somebody whisper please adore me, and when I looked the moon had turned to gold.


Elsewhere on the bill — which became the season finale by default when budget cuts forced the postponement of the scheduled closer, "New Works ’09" — guest artists Wendy Whelan, Albert Evans and Sebastien Marcovici, all principal dancers from the New York City Ballet, will be featured in the spiritually inspired "Liturgy" and the richly emotional "After the Rain" from renowned choreographer Christopher Wheeldon.

Canfield also choreographs "Neon Glass Pas de Deux," based on an exotic blend of ingredients suggested by glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s creations and avant-garde composer Philip Glass’ untraditional (and that’s a vast understatement) music. "It came from an installation (Chihuly) had done, and when you see the texture, it’s very architectural," Canfied says. "They kind of glow because they’re white and nude (as in Band-Aid-colored, so don’t get any mistakenly naughty ideas) and kind of metallic, in a black space lit by spotlights with a liquidy, neon-looking feel."

As for Glass’ convention-busting compositions, Canfield veered away from his most mind-bending music. "Would I pick the most challenging, sophisticated music to introduce my audiences to it? No," he says. "His music is challenging to me as well. But this is gorgeous, one of his more beautifully melodic songs."

Finally, the finale: a return engagement of choreographer Val Caniparoli’s energetic "Lambarena," combining the classicism of Bach with traditional African song and dance. "The audience in Nevada really appreciates it," says Maiqui Manosa, the guest repetiteur (coach/stager) who also guided the company’s first "Lambarena" performance in 2007.

"When Val first did it in the early ’90s, everybody thought it wouldn’t work, bringing in African movement so grounded and close to the floor, everything you don’t do in ballet, and put them together," Manosa says. "It seemed so out there, and yet since then, it’s been done from Europe to Africa to Asia to America. They thought he was crazy, but it worked."

Any crazier than dancing to — count ’em — seven blue moons?

After "American Masters," you might just exit no longer alone, with a dream in your heart and a love of your own.


Contact reporter Steve Bornfeld at sbornfeld@ or 702-383-0256.

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