UNLV Dance’s ‘First Light’ concert told a tale of setback and triumph

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Dancers perform "Spring" in "First Light," a concert by UNLV Dance. Photo by Louis Kavouras.

UNLV’s Dance Department presented the first dance concert of the semester, “First Light,” which highlighted choreography from UNLV Dance’s newest faculty member, Hayley Meier, from Oct. 20 to Oct. 22. The concert featured the styles of dance that the UNLV Dance Department teaches: modern, contemporary and ballet. 

Auditions for the performance began in the 2022 spring semester. Students were asked to perform in a placement panel in front of faculty members and that was also to serve as an audition for “First Light.” 

Meier’s dance, “Spring,” was the first of many performances presented. “Spring” is a ballet performance featuring Max Richter’s recomposed version of Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons: Spring.” “Spring” began with three dancers in the center. Groups of three to four performers began entering the stage, until they were all on stage. The elegant dancers performed in pastel dresses, and coupled with the light-hearted music; the dancers are reminiscent of lilies blooming in the spring as if the crisp spring breeze is moving them around.

The performance, then, took a turn from light, airy movements to slower and reverent movements. The music slowed down, and the lighting became darker, imitating the darkness of midnight. The flowers, or dancers, were now dancing without the warmth and luminosity of the sun. Then, the dance transitioned to persimmon orange lighting, mimicking the light of dawn.

Alexa Fahd, a UNLV Honors student, performed in “First Light” and “Between Earth and Light.” Fahd did the solo performance in “Spring” for two out of the three-night performance. Fahd shared the work that goes behind putting on concerts like these, saying, “It’s a lot of time that goes into creating these shows from the dancers’ point of view. Every piece rehearses twice a week for two hours. During the show week, during tech rehearsals and dress rehearsals, we’re there up to six hours every day, just making sure everything is ready to go on stage.” Fahd shares that the biggest struggle with such a time-intensive rehearsal schedule was balancing schoolwork with dancing.

However, despite numerous rehearsals, something is always bound to go wrong. Fahd added, “As a dancer, you have to be adaptable and ready for changes at any time. There was a student in the show who had to be taken out the week before because she got sick, so we had to re-block the dance and re-choreograph. There was another student who got injured during the first performance, and so the dancers had to adapt and re-choreograph. It’s a lot of learning on the spot and going with the flow, but a lot of us just want what’s best for the dance as a whole, so we’ll work together to make it happen.” 

The student who incurred an injury during the first night was slated to perform the solo in “Spring” for all three nights. But after the injury, Fahd was tasked with taking on the role for the last two nights. “I was already understudying the role, and I knew the dance already, but I wasn’t prepared to perform it. I had only tried it from the beginning with the solo twice before performing it live on stage, so it was definitely intimidating. I was nervous for the first performance I did on Saturday, but then, after that, the nerves went away. It was just so much fun being on stage and having an opportunity like that was really, really incredible” said Fahd. Fahd thinks it is important to have different representations of art available for students to view, reasoning that it is not only entertaining, but also is evidence of the hard work that production and performers put into their craft.

UNLV Dance is now in the process of constructing their next performance “Golden Hour,” featuring student-led choreography. A recorded performance of “First Light” is available to stream on Vimeo on the Performing Arts Center channel from Oct. 24, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. to June 15, 2024 at 7:30 p.m..

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