By: Hal de Becker


Nevada Ballet Theatre’s ‘Ballet & Broadway’ production at The Smith Center was an exhilarating event that lifted the spirits of audience and dancers alike.


The company had a new, revitalized look probably due to the influence of its new Artistic Director, Roy Kaiser.  Increased dedication and artistic maturity aptly describe some of the welcome enhancements.   


Before the performance began Mr. Kaiser came on stage to introduce himself and describe next season’s program.  His relaxed personal charm and sense of humor put the audience at ease and ready to enjoy itself - which it did.


The program opened with Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Carousel’ set to Richard Rodgers’s music for the musical show of the same name.  The show was based on Molnar’s drama ‘Liliom,’ but the ballet emphasized the romance of the two young lovers with only an occasional hint to the story’s darker side.  


The girl was portrayed by Alissa Dale who projected a quality of innocence matching the purity of her dancing.  Steven Goforth, as her suitor, was back in top form technically and dramatically.  The contrast between his rough edged naturalistic movements and her soft balletic lyricism added to their appeal as a couple.


At their first meeting in the ballet they were attracted but reticent, unsure of themselves and of each other.  But when, in one of many tender moments, their lips brushed in a near-kiss they were swept helplessly and passionately into love. 


Betsy Lucas, Emma McGirr, Kenneth Shelby and Enrico DeMarco contributed to the romantic atmosphere with strong dancing and artistic awareness. 


The ensemble of 20 dancers moved with the unity of a single body.  Whether merging with the two lovers or trying to separate them they sustained the work’s poetic aura,


At one point the ladies, supported on their partners’ shoulders, were moved in a wide circle while holding the long vertical poles associated with a carousel or merry-go-round.  It was an inventive and effective device.    


‘Tarantella’, choreographed by George Balanchine to music by Gottschalk, is stylistically a Neapolitan street dance but balletically an explosive display of virtuosity and speed for two dancers, in this instance Mirella Costa Neto and Jun Tanabe.    


Tanabe didn’t always appear comfortable with the fervid temperament of the dance but he delivered exciting technical fireworks including stopping and staying on demi pointe

(half toe) after executing seven pirouettes. 


It was Neto who had the better grasp of its fiery quality and humorous allusions in the music and choreography.  Her slow sustained fouettes and turns in attitude (one bent leg raised in back) were as impressive as the more frequently executed rapid ones.  


Matthew Neenan, long-time choreographer in residence at Pennsylvania Ballet, created ‘Until December’ for NBT to music by Las Vegas resident Michael Torke.  It wasn’t his first contribution to NBT’s repertoire.  In 2011 his ‘At the Border’ was a big success.   


In the talented hands (and feet) of NBT’s dancers ‘December’s world premiere received a memorable performance.  


It had no story and didn’t need one.  It was a mesmerizing contemporary style ballet with often sharp, angular movements requiring unique dancer flexibility.  The mood was mysterious and its non-stop movement imbued with high energy.


Sections often began with a single dancer who would gradually and almost imperceptibly be joined by others.  Performances by Mlles Dale, DeRocher, Ghiardi, Lynes and McGirr, and Messrs Alvarez, Goforth, Hochberg and Tucker were flawless.            


Balanchine’s ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’ was a spoof of Prohibition’s speakeasy era with a cast consisting of floozies, strippers, gangsters and coppers.  It was first set for NBT in 2015 by Philip Neal and re-staged this time by Tara Foy.    


The ballet was a versatility test for the 20 dancers who had to replace tutus with tassels and pirouettes with parody.  They earned an A+.


Especially notable was Christina Ghiardi who shed her classical persona to portray the  

Striptease Girl and Benjamin Tucker, also classically trained, who assumed the Hoofer role and the tap dancing that came with it. 


In an amusing prologue to the dance Joshua Kekoa was typed cast as a leading ballet dancer who pays a hit man to shoot his rival, Tucker the tapper.


The fifty members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic under the direction of Maestro Leif Bjaland provided impeccable accompaniment, not just in tempi and the like but in the high artistic quality of their playing.  Their performance was no doubt an added inspiration for the dancers.     


The lighting design for three of the works was by Mark Stanley and executed by Peter Jakubokski.  But it was Jakubowski’s own design for ‘December’ that was particularly   noteworthy.     


NBT’s new season begins in October with extended performances scheduled for most of the productions.   Ticket info is available at NevadaBallet.org and 702-749-2847.