Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2018

Currently: 58° — Complete forecast

Troupe tries Vivaldi, Pink Floyd

What: Nevada Ballet Theatre's "Vivaldi to Pink Floyd."

When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday.

Where: UNLV's Judy Bayley Theatre.

Tickets: $25, $40, $60.

Information: 895-2787.

Two American choreographers with international reputations are spotlighted in "Vivaldi to Pink Floyd," Nevada Ballet Theatre's performances today through Sunday at Judy Bayley Theatre at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The first is NBT's multi-talented artistic director, Bruce Steivel; the second, Val Caniparoli, resident choreographer of the San Francisco Ballet, who enjoys worldwide acclaim.

The performance will feature two of Steivel's works -- the premiere of "Ballet Concertante," a new, classical-style piece set to the music of Robert Schumann's horn concerto, and "Good Times," based on pop-rock songs from several Pink Floyd albums -- "Dark Side of the Moon," "Saucer Full of Secrets" and "The Wall."

"I heard the Schumann at a Las Vegas Philharmonic concert last year," Steivel said, "and felt I wanted to choreograph to it. The ballet has no story line but a lot of fast movements and, hopefully, interesting choreography. I try to show the dancers' strengths.

"I choreographed the Pink Floyd piece for my premiere performance at the State Theater in Bern, Switzerland. It interprets the music and allows the dancers to have some fun."

When creating a ballet, in whatever style, Steivel has three artistic goals -- "To satisfy myself and feel that I have done an OK job with the music," he said, "to give the dancers something that they will enjoy dancing and that will allow them to grow both artistically and technically and to entertain the audience, which is really why we are here."

When he begins work on a new ballet, Steivel starts with the dancers.

"I use the dancers as tools and develop the choreography to suit their bodies and personalities," he explained. "Watching them do one step I've given them lets me see what the next step should be."

Steivel first met Val Caniparoli when the latter came to Hong Kong to fine tune one of his dances that the former was restaging.

"I have always wanted to have a ballet from Val in our NBT repertoire," Steivel said. "He's a very dynamic choreographer. His ballet ("Going for Baroque") is very fast-paced and exciting and is a real challenge for the dancers. I don't think Vivaldi would have ever dreamed of having movements such as those Val has given to the dancers set to his music."

Caniparoli described "Going for Baroque" as "very colorful, a contemporary dance with a classical base and gestures that identify with baroque." But the relationship stops there.

"I take music that I love and create from that," he said. "I don't go in with preconceived ideas.

"While I was growing up (in Renton, Wash., near Seattle), I studied music (alto saxophone, clarinet and flute), so I have a musical background. But I was not exposed to the possibilities of a dance career. When there's no one to push you in that direction, you go in another."

Caniparoli's career path changed at Washington State University in Pullman, where he was involved in the theater department.

"A traveling dance company gave a workshop," he recalled. "I'd try anything -- and it clicked."

Since redirecting his talents from dance to choreography, Caniparoli has created over 50 ballets, won numerous awards and fellowships and received 10 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is in such demand as a choreographer that he has to turn down business.

"For the past five or six years I've been swamped," he said. "It's been amazing! (Dance) companies are asking for older works, and that's nice because it keeps them alive. The more they're performed, the better they become because I may make changes -- very minor, perhaps lighting or positioning of dancers, that make a subtle artistic difference and tighten and strengthen the piece as a whole."

Caniparoli was recently in Palm Springs, Calif., to watch performances of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada's oldest ballet company. He's choreographing a full-length "Cinderella" for them for 2005.