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He’s leaping outside the box with his visceral — but disciplined — approach to dance It’s a waltz, to be sure, but, oh, how we get there: Snapping their fans open with a confidence that startles, the female dancers confront the audience with a supermodel strut and a sensual roll of their bodies. This recent rehearsal at the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater studio in Holsum Lofts is for a historical piece about Henry VIII’s reign. But the title alone suggests this isn’t some stuffy costume drama: “Opulence.” Where the runway prowl meets ballroom dance and tumultuous British history: It’s in that magical land of mashup that the Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater lives. It also reflects Founding Artistic Director Bernard Gaddis’s passion for bringing dance to a broader audience. “I want to create dance that people can relate to,” says Gaddis. “I don’t ever want to go over their heads. Dance is about real people’s lives. And, besides, I love the era of the Tudors. European history has so much more drama and intrigue.” (Yes, for the record, he completely devoured the Showtime miniseries.) There’s little drama behind the rise of Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater, but that’s a good thing. Rather, chalk up the

almost four-year-old dance company’s success to drama-free hard work and discipline. Of course, Gaddis’ impressive resume is also a factor. He’s a former principal dancer with the Philadelphia Dance Company as well as with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he danced for seven years. Today, he performs in 10 shows a week in Cirque du Soleil’s flagship show, Mystere, where he’s a principal dancer and choreographer. With such a rich background, it’s natural that Gaddis made countless connections and gleaned innumerable insights into how working dance companies operate. But what makes him a rising star is his keen sensitivity to his dual responsibilities both as an entertainer and an artist. “We’ll be dancing to anything from classical to Ella Fitzgerald to avant garde to even hip-hop,” Gaddis says of the upcoming season. “Dance should be an art form for the entire community.” And the actual dance part of the dance? If this recent afternoon rehearsal is any indication, it should be sculpted, clean, rife with artful tension — and flawless. (And anyone who caught his company’s performance at

CSN’s recent “Dance in the Desert” festival — two engrossing, sinuous, funky, disciplined works — is likely still applauding.) That’s because Gaddis is a patient, methodical and encouraging director. On this afternoon, when two of the company’s dancers are having trouble with the dynamics of a lift and sweep, Gaddis calmly steps in, takes the female dancer in his arms, and lifts and talks her through the sweep. “I’m one of those artists,” he explains afterwards with a laugh. “I have to keep my hands in everything. I never want to be the kind of director who’s out of touch with his dancers.” At his hands, Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater’s fourth season promises to bring some sizzle to Southern Nevada’s dance scene. In addition to the Gaddischoreographed “Opulence,” the theater’s fall season also includes “Tease” by the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s Judith Jamison; “Portraits” by Zane Booker; and an untitled work by Greg Sample. The Las Vegas Contemporary Dance Theater’s fall dance show is Nov. 5-7 at the West Las Vegas Library Theater. $25-$35. Info: — Andrew Kiraly


Desert Companion


Desert Companion September-October 2010