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Dance in the Desert Festival: 3 Questions with Choreographer/Festival Director Kelly Roth


Dance in the Desert Festival: 3 Questions with Choreographer/Festival Director Kelly Roth


Dance in the Desert Festival: 3 Questions with Choreographer/Festival Director Kelly Roth 1

Kelly Roth. Photo by Jeff Speer


As a prelude to this weekend’s edition of the annual Dance in the Desert Festival in Las Vegas, our interview is with Kelly Roth who, with co-founder Kyla Quintero, designed the festival to offer a broad spectrum of choreographic visions and approaches, from expressionism to postmodernism to neoromanticism, and to present a diverse selection of genres drawing on traditions from Africa and Europe along with American original and hybrid forms.  Now known as a venue for the introduction of innovative work, Dance in the Desert showcases companies from around the world, across the United States, and from the neighboring states of California, Utah, and Arizona, as well as highlighting Nevada’s own talent.


Dance Vine: Every edition of Dance in the Desert has its own personality. What would you say is this year’s?

Kelly Roth: This year we are celebrating the official designation of National Dance Day, occurring on the last Saturday of July. It was so nice of the government to honor our festival by coordinating the observance of the art form in America with the annual recurrence of Dance in the Desert!


Any new companies this year? Who are they, and what is their point of view/style?

We are excited to be presenting Dance Source from Provo, Utah. This is their first time at the Festival and also the first time in a few years we’ve had dancers coming from Utah. If their freshness and enthusiasm survive the Las Vegas culture shock, we should be in for a treat.

We are also happy to again be welcoming Lynn Needle, former soloist with the Nikolais Dance Theatre. Making the trek from New York, Lynn will be offering a series of master classes in addition to performing her polished collection of imaginative solo works in tandem with a very special accompanist, Uli Geissendoerfer, former music director for Cirque du Soleil.


What effect has the current reduction in Las Vegas performing venues had on Dance in the Desert?

We are lucky and have been very blessed to have as a home base the Nicholas J. Horn Performing Arts Center at the College of Southern Nevada. With an excellent front office and technical staff intact, we are managing to weather the economic storm while continuing to assist local performing artists and organizations by offering them the most reasonably priced venue of its kind in Las Vegas.

One of the things that impressed us the most when we came to town sixteen years ago was the unexpected situation local performers enjoyed. At that time, the city had combined many of its libraries with good quality, fully staffed theater facilities. These venues, in addition to producing various performance series, allowed performance space access to local groups at affordable rates.

Unfortunately, those days are fading quickly, as the city has raised fees for these smaller theaters as much as ten times their normal rates — and overnight! Groups such as the fledgling Las Vegas Ballet Company and Nevada Repertory Dance Theatre, as well as a plethora of dance studios and theater companies are finding the Horn Theatre a refuge from these inflationary trends.

Of course, the possibility exists we’ll all be joining the hip-hoppers on the street before long, but at least we’ll be dancing. Dancers survive. If Darwin was right, we may be the next link in the evolutionary chain.


Dance in the Desert Festival: 3 Questions with Choreographer/Festival Director Kelly Roth 2



Dance in the Desert Festival

July 29, 7:00 p.m.
July 30, 2:00 p.m. & 7:00 p.m.

College of Southern Nevada, Charleston Campus
Nicholas J. Horn Theatre
3200 E. Cheyenne Avenue, North Las Vegas
For tickets: 702-651-LIVE (5483)


Former dancer, Geri Jeter, has been editing and writing for over fifteen years, writing on dance, food, music, NASCAR, technical theater, and Italian-American culture. For the past five years, she was the dance critic for the Las Vegas Weekly; in 2007 Nevada Ballet Theatre presented her with the Above and Beyond award. Now living in San Francisco, Geri is excited about covering the entire scope of West Coast dance. You can read more of her dance writing at her blog Dance Blitz ( and follow her Las Vegas and San Francisco restaurant reviews at DishKebab (

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