Capezio Brings Dance Royalty To Vegas For a Grand Celebration
Las Vegas, home to an immense number and assorted genres of dancers, is a transient city that struggles to find community. Our first professional sports team—NHL Vegas Golden Knights—which debuted just days after the October 1 shooting, is giving Vegas hometown heroes to rally around and a palpable excitement throughout the valley.
That same camaraderie was evident Monday night as the dance community gathered—directors, choreographers, performers and educators—from New York City, Los Angeles and Las Vegas to celebrate some of their own at the Capezio Dance Awards. Ballerinas, tap and hip hop dancers, contemporary and ballroom mixed and mingled at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts—known as the "heart of the arts" here—just at the edge of the glitz and glamour of the Vegas strip.
Honoree Steve "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente brought a Who's Who of hip hop to perform in Ghettomade. Photo by Richard Termine
The large scale, star-studded production, hosted by So You think You Can Dance's executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, was conceived and directed by Ann Marie DeAngelo, a former Joffrey Ballet dancer who's spent time in Vegas off and on over the past year.
The event—the second production in the history of the awards—commemorated Capezio's 130 years of shoemaking and honored a diverse array of dancers, choreographers and contributors to the field. The gathering set out to do "what art is supposed to do: create community," DeAngelo said. The show benefitted The Actors Fund (which encompasses Career Transitions for Dancers and The Dancers Resource) and Future Dance (the education and outreach program of Nevada Ballet Theatre).
Alissa Dale and Steven Goforth of Nevada Ballet Theatre performed Christopher Wheeldon's Carousel (A dance) Pas De Deux. Photo by Richard Termine
The Capezio Foundation's Dance Award, established in 1952, this year honored Michelle Dorrance, David Parsons, Wendy Whelan and Steve "Mr. Wiggles" Clemente. Debbie Allen was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by tap wunderkind Savion Glover, for her 30-plus years as a dancer, director, choreographer, educator and producer.
The show opened with an uplifting contemporary piece by Mandy Moore, using students from three top Vegas dance studios: The Rock Center for Dance, Bunker Dance Center and the Dance Zone. Moore set the tone for the night filling the stage with youthful energy and, as Allen noted later in her remarks, "power" and "options."
A short film outlining the history of the family-owned Capezio brand segued into a live narrative that took us through the evening. The Cobblers Rap and subsequent Interludes, choreographed by DeAngelo, recreated the love story of Salvatore Capezio and his ballerina wife, Angelina Passone.
Three of the awardees performed, perfectly showcasing their various talents for an adoring audience: Michelle Dorrance and her tap company of eight made delicious music with their feet in The Twelve/Eight, Mr. Wiggles and crew (a lineup of Who's Who in hip hop) popped and locked in Ghettomade and Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks performed Brooks' First Fall. The audience audibly gasped with Whelan's first trusting fall backwards onto a prone Brooks.
Wendy Whelan and Brian Brooks perform. Photo by Richard Termine
Las Vegas artists included Alissa Dale and Steven Goforth of Nevada Ballet Theatre who performed Christopher Wheeldon's Carousel (A dance) Pas De Deux with a balance of abandon, romance and youthful vitality. Former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre dancer Bernard H. Gaddis' Contemporary West Dance Theatre performed his athletic male duet Drastic Measures. Closing the evening, aerialist Sara Romanowsky performed on silks as cobbler and ballerina walked off into the sunset.
Las Vegas is undeniably a city of entertainment. As Capezio has a presence in all 50 states, it stands to reason that this celebration—and more like it—may shift West to lift up our larger, inclusive, dance family. And, hey—it's Vegas baby!
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On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
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When Garley "GiGi Tonyé" Briggs, a dance teacher and Chicago native, started noticing this pattern, she was preparing her second annual Memorial Day workshop for local youth.
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While I sat in the traffic of 600,000 NFL fans I got thinking, is there something ballet could learn from football? Could a draft system improve young dancers' prospects and overall company caliber and contentment?
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Since Shea New, the festival's artistic director, founded the festival in 1998, she's worked tirelessly with McCallum's director of education and festival producer, Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, and stage manager and festival production manager Joanna Fookes to build a festival that nurtures choreographers, highlights high quality work, powerfully engages the local community and cultivates an audience base for dance in the Coachella Valley. The trio is backed by a strong team of professionals at McCallum and the brilliant volunteers from the local and national level who serve as adjudicators.
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Despite what you might think, there's no reason for dancers to be afraid of bread.
"It's looked at as this evil food," says New York State–certified dietitian and former dancer Tiffany Mendell. But the truth is, unless you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, bread can be a healthy source of carbohydrates—our body's preferred fuel—plus fiber and vitamins.
The key is choosing your loaf wisely.
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