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Joffrey tribute too much of a good thing

Nevada Ballet Theatre and three visiting companies came together over the weekend for a mixed-repertory tribute to Robert Joffrey that would have done the famed choreographer proud.

Nevada Ballet’s artistic director James Canfield, Ballet West’s Adam Sklute, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Glenn Edgerton and Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s Tom Mossbrucker all were members of a Joffrey company, and their combined effort played to an appreciative crowd at Artemus Ham Hall on the campus of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The evening opened with Nevada Ballet Theatre’s "Degas Impressions," which Canfield choreographed. The dancers suggested moves one might see if impressionist paintings came to life. The 10 acts gave Griffin Whiting and Leigh Hartley extra chances to show their winning, bright skills, while Barrington Lohr and Mary LaCroix proved their strength with an attractive pas de deux.

Kudos to Nevada Ballet for performing with live music, featuring De Ann Letourneau on violin and Voltaire Verzosa on piano.

Ballet West’s "Sinfonietta" featured more than a dozen dancers in a fast-paced, decidedly contemporary program. Those looking for contemplative, interpretive dance might have been disappointed, but this was without a doubt attention-getting and fulfilling to those who kept up with the tempo.

After an intermission, Kellie Epperheimer and Jason Hortin of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago appeared with the shortest but perhaps the most captivating dance of the evening, "Pas De Deux from Gnawa." The dancers offered a few Cirque du Soleil-worthy contortions along with some more typical dance moves. Sensuality and style were the watchwords, and they did not disappoint.

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s "Red Sweet" brought more than a half-dozen dancers to the stage. Athleticism contributed much to the dance moves, with lifts and dramatic arm moves suggesting ballet is often combined with theatre.

The evening concluded with Nevada Ballet’s "Equinoxe," also choreographed by Canfield. It included more than a dozen dancers performing to New Age-style music, cleaving together and coming apart. As the dancers crawled, walked and moved on stage, they were lithe, light, slow and reasoned.

As to issues, technique and style were sometimes off. Members of the corps de ballet should not wobble when standing on one foot, and expressions should not slip to grimness no matter the activity. Costumes sometimes grabbed attention when they just needed to be part of the scene.

Fundamentally, a program of more than two-and-a-half hours may seem a gift to ballet devotees, but that length may have been too much for a varied program such as this. More than one audience member might have asked: I know I loved that one particular dance, but remind me, what was it?

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