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Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce Theatre

November 26, 2011
Photo by Jae Man Joo

Photo by Jae Man Joo

Having awakened from my Thanksgiving turkey induced coma I awoke feeling spry, so I hurried off to the Joyce Theatre in NYC to catch the Complexions Contemporary Ballet.  I have only seen the company or rather a duet or two from the company on “So You Think You Can Dance”, so I was fairly certain of the level of dancing and quality of the choreography I would get, but I must say, it far surpassed any expectations I had!

Easily one of the best small companies, which was created in 1994 by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson  that I have ever seen and it was a joy to watch. As the audience was let into the theatre festive music was heard, which put us, the audience in a very relaxed and somewhat cheery mood. The program was made up of Hissy Fits (2006), Three Point Turn (2008, excerpt), Moody Booty Blues (2006), Solo (1998) for Desmond Richardson, and the New York premier of Places Please (2011).

Photo by Jae Man Joo

Photo by Jae Man Joo

All the pieces were upbeat, lively and at times a bit whimsical. Hissy Fits was a virtuosity of movements. Slides, turns, lifts and daring moves it was an exciting opening number. An immediate stand out in the piece that was re-enforced in his subsequent performances was Edgar Anido. Mr. Anido, original from Cuba, with his power packed frame is a dynamic dancer whose lyricism, clean classical lines and cool confidence on stage easily draws the eye. He was vaulted into becoming one of my favorite male dancers; he was a joy and delight!

Hissy Fits, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden and set to the music of Johannes Bach is a very busy, movement packed piece. When the piece opens, I was startled by the sheer beauty of the dancers lined up horizontally in the back of the stage. The enticing costumes by DM Design only accentuated the dancer’s physique and the lighting design by Michael Korsch gave it a certain mystery. The dancers entered and threw a hissy fit and left, filled with challenging and daring motifs of movement, it was fully loaded and at times boastful. It was a joyous moment of post-Balanchine at its height!

Three Point Turn, set to the music of David Rozenblatt, was an excerpt from a work that was original created for Diana Vishneva, Desmond Richardson, and the Mariinsky Ballet (also known as the Kirov Ballet when touring)  for the dance spectacle “Diana Vishneva; Beauty in Motion” in 2008. Also choreographed by Dwight Rhoden the piece has a subtle sexuality that is an underlying tone throughout. With three sets of couples the choreography was filled with risk taking, the dancers never seemed to stop moving, the technique flawless, slides, turns and wonderful extensions it seem to highlight the strengths of each dancer personally. Sabra Perry and Tercell Waters were exceptional as they explore the tumultuous male/female relationship.

Moody Booty Blues, choreographed by Mr. Rhoden in 2006, set to the music of Roy Buchanan’s “When a Guitar Plays the Blues”, Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters, “Grinning in Your Face” by Son House and “Love Struck Baby” by Steve Ray Vaughn was a toe tapping success. The men in snug dungarees and the women in red dresses and on Pointe, the dancers seemed to be in their element. Again Edgar Anido distinguished himself, exhibiting a joie de vivre that was contagious. Gary w. Jeter II possesses an onstage authority that commands your attention and respect. Within this piece was superlative dancing by Christie Partelow, Christina Doolingand Mark Caserta.

Photo by Jae Man Joo

Photo by Jae Man Joo

Solo, performed by Desmond Richardson also choreographed by Mr. Rhoden in 1998 to music by Prince was well danced.  Mr. Richardson is lauded for his performance and rightly so! Soon to retire, this will be his last year touring with the company. Mr. Richardson is a world renown dancer and has performed with such companies as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the American Ballet Theater before he and Mr. Rhoden formed Complexions.

Places Please is dedicated to the late Denise Jefferson, who was the long-term director of the Ailey School, and a brilliantly talented woman whose presence is greatly missed in the world of dance. This is the work’s New York Premier and is definite feel-good piece. Paying homage to the Broadway hoofer, we see top hats, women in heels and  a Fosse inspired motif. It is joyously set to songs by the Brian Setzer Orchestra, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Dave Brubeck. Clifford Williams shined and is a dancer to watch, for he  possess it all, crisp technique, commanding stage presence, wonderful lines and a natural turner, his pirouettes breathtaking. If you have not witnessed Mr. Clifford in performance, I strongly advise you to do so!

Places Please is impish and good-natured. Christine Darch costumes only added to the work, utilizing sequins, Fosse-black and top-hats, the dancers coming out in varying variations through-out the piece. Premiered at the Kingsbury Hall in Salt Lake City, Utah, the piece is described as “a festive, high-energy work that emphasizes the relationship between the fanfare of audience and the spectacle of ‘over the top’ performance.” The audience loved it!

Mr. Rhoden’s choreography does not always get the best of reviews, but that is the case for many great artists. His merit is his willingness to stretch the envelope, to explore new movement and timing with varying and innovated types of music-dance mergers.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet will be at the Joyce Theater till Nov. 27.

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