Whatever artistic direction Nevada Dance Theatre may follow in its home seasons in Las Vegas, the company's five-part touring program, presented Tuesday in Burbank High School Auditorium, offered nothing more than rubber-stamp repertory: so-called original ballets that seemed curiously familiar.
In Vassili Sulich's "Hungarian Dances," for instance, the mix of classical combinations and Magyar-flavored steps for lead couple and five other pairs proved unmistakably "Raymonda"-esque.
In dramatic shape, Sulich's duet "Meditation" evoked Fokine's "Le Spectre de la Rose" (though the flower held by his dreaming danseuse looked like a white lotus or water lily) and his duet "Mantodea" mined the same vein of predatory-insect sexuality as Robbins' "The Cage," to the same grim end.
Similarly, Derryl Yeager's rock ballet "Fresh Aire" carefully recycled the bogus ritualism and muscularity of Arpino's "Trinity" while his "Jelly Roll Blues" reworked the jokey cliches of just about every '20s ballet ever choreographed.
All of these pieces except the last freshened their borrowed concepts with passages of genuine choreographic invention. In particular, Sulich gained in his years as lead male in the acrobatic, all-but-nude adagios of the Las Vegas "Folies Bergere" a highly sophisticated command of partnering technique that gave each of his ballets moments of exceptional interest.
Inevitably, however, this me-too program lacked authenticity and stature--despite the disciplined, spirited performances of Sulich's 15-member company.
Although some dancers looked less like elegantly lean classical paragons than Las Vegas showgirls (big-breasted and thick-thighed) or chorus boys (overdeveloped arm/shoulder muscles and wearing opulently layered hair styles), their dancing always upheld a technical standard that any regional company might envy.
With bold attacks and a secure sense of style, Tamara Lohrenz sailed through every challenge: the tests of balance and fast ethnic footwork of "Hungarian Dances," the steamy gymnastics of "Mantodea," the broadly balleticized social- and show-dance in "Jelly Roll Blues." Eileen Price Kim, Robert Hovey and Barbara Bessert also danced up to the level of their choreography--and often beyond.