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Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce, Nov.19 – Dec 1, 2013 ….

December 12, 2013
Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Edgar Anido, Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Edgar Anido, Photo: Melissa Bartucci

If I were Dwight Rhoden, after reading Gia Kourlas’ review in the New York Times, I would find it very hard to even contemplate getting out of bed, ever again. If I were Dwight Rhoden I would make like an ostrich and just pull the blankets over my head and moan…insistently! But I am not Dwight Rhoden! Dwight Rhoden is made of much firmer stuff then I!

First and foremost, I WANT TO ASSURE MR. RHODEN….not everyone agrees with Gia Kourlas. (…I mean does she ever like anything…). The Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s two week run at the Joyce Theater, Nov.19 – Dec 1, 2013 presented some of the most amazing dancing and intriguing choreography I have seen this year! Point blank, period!

It must be stated that what makes Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company so unique, besides the exceptionally gifted dancers, is the make-up of those dancers in the company. There is no uniform look to the dancers. The dancers range in height from the wonderfully tall Terk Waters to the compact but powerful Edgar Anido. There is the magnificence found in every move and gesture of Jourdan Epstein, who is not a small woman and then there is Samantha Figgins who cannot be categorized except as brilliant in everything she does. The company’s makeup is much like the name, Complexions, all types; the thread that unifies the company is the exceedingly gifted dancers the company employs.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Mark Caserta in Jae Man Joo’s “Recur”, Photo: Paul B. Goode

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Mark Caserta in Jae Man Joo’s “Recur”, Photo: Paul B. Goode

Jae Moon Joo, the company’s Associate Artistic Director and Ballet Master presented two works this season, the New York Premier of his 2013 work, Recur and a reworking of his 2012 work, Flight.

Recur is 32 minute work with lighting by Micheal Korsch and music by Kieth Kenniff, Nils Frahm, Max Richter, Valentine Silverstrov and Zoe Keating. The work played with light and shadow, when the curtain rises the dancers are moving slowly about the stage, their backs facing the audience. They moved with shuffling steps, shoulders hunched over like overly medicated inmates of an insane asylum.

The imagery in Recur is haunting, it is not a disturbing work, but instead it is a work that does not leave your mind’s eye quickly. The choreography varies from intensely beautiful lyricism to rapid, mesmerizing uses of the body in space.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Terk Waters, Photo: Jae Man Joo

Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Terk Waters, Photo: Jae Man Joo

Terk Waters performed a solo of such amazing agility and focus that your eyes are glued to his every move. He possesses such a wonderful facility for dance with his towering six-foot plus frame, but it is the inner fire that brings him to prominence. There is greatness in Terk Waters; you see it in the smallest of motions, the tilt of the head, the breath in-held at just the right moment, a gesture of the hand. This is an artist to watch……

Now about the reworking of Jae Moon Joo’s Flight…..I have to say I was greatly disappointed. I remember the work from last year’s season and I had made it a priority to see it again this year. I was really looking forward to it. I remember the beauty of Mark Caserta’s back muscles moving as if of their own accord and the shadows created by overhead lighting.

Last year’s Flight consisted of an interconnected pair of solos for Mark Caserta and Norbert De La Cruz III, this year’s Flight is a trio of interconnected solos for Jourdan Epstein, Samantha Figgins and Terk Waters. The dancing was fine and if the work had been given another name and said to have been a completely new work I might have enjoyed it. Where last year’s Flight, a work for two men, was so memorable; I cannot say the same for the 2013 reworking.

I realize that the beginning and ending solos were the same choreography as in last year’s version, just performed by women while Terk Water’s solo was new material. I just missed the powerful, but concise work for two men, I can only hope Mr. Joo does not discard the 2012 version entirely.

Dwight Rhoden’s Moon Over Jupiter, with music by Rachmaninov, was the only work in the evening’s performance with the women en pointe. It begins most mysteriously, three women up stage, partly in shadows and three men downstage, their body’s bent over, almost into a ball but lifted off the floor by only their hands. The men, very slowly, straighten their legs making a wide V, still lifted off the floor by only their hands then roll backwards, inverting their body so their feet are straight up into the air.

As in most of Mr. Rhoden’s work, Moon Over Jupiter possesses a mysterious sense of mysticism, a deep probing of the divine, a searching of the inner findings of the spirit. But, it is Mark Caserta’s solo that takes your breath away. He begins with swiping arms into a turn, then his leg is thrown back into an arabesque that somehow becomes a pirouette en attitude.  He has a rare quality not often found in male dancers and that is the flexibility of his upper back. The way he uses his upper back muscles in his dancing is a thing of beauty, the sudden arch of his back at the top of turn that propels him forward.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Photo: Melissa Bartucci

There is something almost Balanchine in Mr. Rhoden’s use of the body in space for this piece. It is found is the way the women, when partnered with the men, move independent of them but still remain engaged. Terk Waters may guide Jordan Epstein, but is Ms. Epstein that allows the guidance. It is a display of independent energies that become united by joint decision.

I have seen Ms. Epstein dance many times, but it was in this performance, as she was dancing en pointe that I recognized what a gifted technician and how emotional of a dancer she is. Bravo Ms. Epstein.

Ashley Mayuex is a new company member that joined Complexions this year and a very exciting addition I think she will become. Ms. Mayuex dances with a lyricism and strength that was wonderful to witness.

In Moon Over Jupiter, Mr. Rhoden applies the classical vocabulary via a strong abstract approach, both in the actual construction of the choreography as well as the architecture of the work. When several dancers are on stage, two are moving in unison up stage, three are moving in chorus, but from different positions around the stage and a duet between a man and woman are all occurring within the same phrases of music. It is a non-linear work of same theme fragments, but connected in such a way I am reminded of the steam of consciousness writings of Gertrude Stein, William Faulkner or William S. Burroughs.

I was able to see Mr. Rhoden’s Innervision with music by Stevie Wonder twice. The first time was the second night of the two-week season at the Joyce, I thought it a fun work, but a little too long. But, that was the first time I saw the work…

The second time I saw the work was the next week, after the dancers had performed the work several times and what a difference. When a choreographer displays a new work, that is not the finished work, it goes through many incarnations, with many notes given. This was a perfect example of that process.

Edgar Anido and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Photo: Melissa Bartucci

Edgar Anido and Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Photo: Melissa Bartucci

The dancers came alive during the second performance. They were dancing from the sheer joy of dancing. Edgar Anido, one of my favorite male dancers on the scene today was so amazing, so enticing, I wanted to get up and dance with him. He shamelessly flirted with the front row beckoning people to come dance with him. His solo received loud applauds and some yowzers when he ran off stage. His turns were spot on and his leaps soared through the air. But, it was the simple fact that Mr. Anido displayed such unbridled joy in his dancing that was so contagious. Bravo indeed Mr. Anido.

Dwight Rhoden’s Innervision is a fun work, a perfect way to end an evening of superb dancing….

But, it has to be stated that though the women are exceptional, it is the men who are the stars of this company. Remember this company began as a vehicle for fellow Artistic Director/Co-Founder Desmond Richardson. One of the great male dancers of his generation, and I hear he is often the one teaching company class, so the training of these dancers is impeccable…

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