Cirque du Ballet

Exploring the collaboration process for creating "A Choreographers’ Showcase"

It’s always a magical time when you combine ballerinas with flying clowns. | Virginia Trudeau

It’s always a magical time when you combine ballerinas with flying clowns. | Virginia Trudeau

For seven years, Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil have come together to present their annual A Choreographers’ Showcase, in which artists from both companies create original works. It’s an opportunity for creatives from different genres and backgrounds to work together, learn from each other and collaborate.

Caroline MacDonald is in her first year as a dancer with Nevada Ballet Theatre (NBT), but she’s not new to choreography—she began in high school and continued choreographing when she joined the Pittsburgh Ballet’s graduate division. Her piece, “Reynadine,” is rooted in her earlier work. “A few summers ago I set the second movement of this piece,” she says. “I thought it might be fun to revisit something I did in the past to elaborate on and make better. … It looks very different.”

She describes her piece as the “story of Reynadine, this sort of shape-shifitng man who lures maidens in the forest to his lair.” The dance features a quintet of NBT ballerinas and one Cirque performer; the contrast in movement tells the story. “Bill [May], who is my Cirque performer, does some really amazing shoulder contortions and acrobatics,” MacDonald says, “I wanted to incorporate that because I thought it fit the character.”

The ballerinas’ precise, synchronized grace plays off of the looser, more feral style of the Cirque performer. “Choreographing has really tightened my attention to detail,” she says, “I have to pick it apart and sculpt it.” She and the dancers discuss the point of a hand, the tilt of a head—things that seem tiny, but make the difference between a polished piece and a work in progress.

Kent Caldwell, who performs in Cirque’s Mystère, approaches his piece, “Arratu,” from a different place. He has a visual arts degree from the University of Michigan, where he was also a competitive gymnast. “My background is in gymnastics and acrobatics,” he says, “so I’m taking that, my knowledge of visual arts and then what I’ve learned about dance since coming into this performing world.”

“This is my first time being a choreographer,” Caldwell continues, describing his piece as “a short, dark fairy tale.” He was inspired to participate in the project after being involved in last year’s One Night For One Drop performance. “I designed and built a stilt character for that show,” he says. “I had such a good time working with the director and choreographer and other people … I’m used to working by myself when I make my sculpture and build things.”

Masks are a big part of Caldwell’s piece, which also draws power from the contrast between Cirque and NBT performers, as well as a few child performers. Working with a variety of styles was challenging, but he says “That’s how I grow as a choreographer and a director. It’s a great collaboration.”

Artists from Nevada Ballet Theatre and Cirque du Soleil come from all over the world and possess a unique and diverse set of talents, something A Choreographer’s Showcase highlights. “As an artist, I want to see my vision come to life and this is the perfect platform to try that,” Caldwell says. MacDonald is excited to see “these two different worlds that are colliding and the work coming out of it is such an interesting combination. It’s going to be a really great show.”

A Choreographers’ Showcase

Mystère Theatre at Treasure Island, 1 p.m. Nov. 2,  $25-$45, 702-894-7722,

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