Head Space: Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s 20th Anniversary Gala at the Joyce Theater….
I remember attending Complexions Contemporary Ballet very first performances at the Joyce Theater in the early to mid-90’s. I must admit, I was not impressed. The company was a hodge-podge of dancers with different ethnicities and body types. I found Dwight Rhoden’s choreography too busy, almost frantic as if he was trying way too hard. The only saving grace to the evening was the performances of Desmond Richardson.
Well, that was then and this is now. I now consider Complexions Contemporary Ballet one of my favorite small dance companies and I always make a point to attend their New York seasons . They practice what they preach, the company’s roster of the exquisitely 14 trained dancers come in a wide variety of colors, sizes and body types. My opinion of Mr. Rhoden’s choreography has changed as well.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s 20th Anniversary Gala at the Joyce Theater presented new works created just for this anniversary in addition to some of the company’s favorite pieces from the past 20 years.
With the World Premiere of Mr. Rhoden’s Head Space, we see the work of not just a choreographer but of an artist coming into his own. Head Space, with music by New Orleans Jazz musician Terrence Blanchard, is perhaps the most exciting work I have seen from Mr. Rhoden…and I can’t wait for the opportunity to see it again,
The work is ripe with Ms. Rhoden’s signature style of choreography. A divine mix of the chaotic laced with sublime lyricism. In Head Space the dancers use their bodies to emphasis his extreme style, a style that pushes the dancers technically. Leg extensions lift to the heavens, especially Terk Waters; he has perhaps the longest legs of any male dancing to day.
I have said it before and I will say it again, I believe “greatness” resides in Terk Waters. He is not just a really good dancer but a dancer rare for his generation. He possesses the ability to make even the most difficult choreography into a seamless blend of artistry and technique. There is a special quality to his dancing in that he dances not with his body but instead with his whole soul. His stage presence, his movement capabilities, both remind me of some of the great male dancers from the early 80’s such as Fernando Bujones, Ivan Nagy, even Baryshnikov in his early years.
The New York City premiere of Igual, choreographed by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer; Marcelo Gomes, was also given. The work is set to an original score for two violins by acclaimed composer Ian Ng and played live by Tessa Lark and Charles Yang. The work is inspired by marriage equality, “Igual” means “equal” in Portuguese.
Four dancers, Ashley Mayeux, Kelly Sneddon, Addison Ector and Terk Waters wearing Eric Wintering’s costumes of turquoise crop tops and leggings wove themselves into intricate knots of interconnecting limbs. The dancers would break apart and come back together again.
It’s a wonderful work and I feel I need to see it again to really say anything about. Mr. Rhoden’s Head Space I found so exciting that anything following it was just not going to be able to get the full appreciation I am sure it deserves.
With Igaul, Mr. Gomes shows his continued growth as a choreographer. If you ever get the opportunity to attend a performance of his Paganini, set to Paganini’s Caprice in A minor (Op. 1, No. 24), that premiered in 2011 or his work Toccare, set to an excerpt from Ian Ng’s Grand Jeté for a Violin, that premiered in 2012….do so, you will not regret it!
Mr. Rhoden’s 1995 work, Ava Maria, was brilliantly performed by American Ballet Theater’s Soloist Misty Copeland and Complexions’ Artist-in Residence, Clifford Williams. Both Ms. Copeland and Mr. Williams energies blended perfectly and created an electrically charged performance. Bravo, bravo indeed.
The only disappointment I found in the evening’s performance was Mr. Rhoden’s excerpt from his work The Groove that was created in 2012 for the North Carolina Dance Theater and set to music of the Pet Shop boys. The audience loved it, but for me it was lacking something somewhere.