By: Hal de Becker


Photos by Joshua Hawkins

Cathy Allen artistic director of Red Desert Dance Ensemble and Heather Harper director of Harper Continuum Dance Theatre joined forces to present an exciting and innovative dance concert in UNLV’s Studio One.


Allen is a faculty member of the University’s department of dance.  Her exceptional Choreographic talents have long been recognized locally as well as in New York City, South Korea, and elsewhere.


Harper is a graduate of UNLV who is now based in NYC directing and choreographing dances for her young company.    


Each of the concert’s talented dancers is deserving of special mention but space prevents that.  Most are current students of Allen and the other outstanding dance instructors at UNLV.


They had been superbly rehearsed and, although performing on the studio floor in close proximity to the audience rather than on a stage, their focus and artistic involvement never wavered.  


Although all of the 18 works presented were excellent, the ten by Allen were the most impressive.  Each was a fully developed creation by this artistically mature, high caliber choreographer. 


Both Allen and Harper drew upon ballet, modern, acro, jazz, martial arts, Latino and Balinese sources for their inspiration. 


One of the things that made Allen’s work so effective was the way she extracted the best from those disciplines and blended them.  The different styles were synergized so artfully that they never overlapped or appeared imposed upon each other.  The familiar sources were thus re-formed into distinct new entities.  


During Allen’s ‘Compliance’ a hand alone danced slowly and gracefully over a dancer’s face in a series of typical positions and gestures.  There  were various possible meanings: under her chin in support of repose; implied silence by a finger across her lips; deliberation suggested with index finger extended along her cheek; hand passed over her eyes to brush away misconceptions.    


In Allen’s ‘Passing Strangers Waiting’ a girl performed a controlled ballet-influenced adagio consisting of extensions and promenades while leaning, stretching and bending as a young man, pallet and brush in hand, painted her body in various colors. 


In Harper’s ‘Grounded’ an ensemble of dancers were clustered together each executing different movements.  Their collective interaction was so well designed that they projected the impression of a single body. 


Solos, duets, trios and ensembles all segued into each other without any breaks.  A few of the topics addressed were homelessness, romance and the mad rush of modern life.  Some of the other numbers were intriguingly enigmatic.


Vocalist Gary Fowler’s high, haunting falsetto frequently provided sensitive accompaniment with songs set to poetry by Walt Whitman.  


Music throughout was compelling particularly compositions by Moby Gratis and Kevin MacKeod.   Costumes and lighting were both outstanding.