Ballad Unto…, Photo by Bill Hebert / Courtesy of Dance Affiliates
Last week I shared a Q&A with Desmond Richardson, co-founder and partner for Complexions, a contemporary ballet company. On Tuesday night, I got to see Desmond and the company perform a wonderfully varied program. My prior exposure to contemporary (as opposed to classical) ballet was mostly limited to repeated viewings of the movie Center Stage, so this was a new experience for me, and I loved it.
I was offered two press tickets and so was able to bring one of my friends, who dances here in the city, with me to the performance, and it was wonderful to have someone knowledgeable to talk to about the pieces during the two intermissions. The performance ran about two-and-a-quarter hours, and the musical contrast between the various pieces kept everything moving.
Because this was Complexions’ Program A, there were five different pieces on the program. The night began with Ballad Unto…, which was set to music by Bach and featured seven pairs of dancers. It continued with Cryin’ to Cry Out, a piece set to jazz music which featured two pairs, and then Approximate Sonata, another pas de deux, then Imprint/Maya, featuring Desmond Richardson, before concluding with Strum, a flashy company number set to music by Metallica.
I enjoyed all of the pieces, but I want to highlight a few of my favorite moments – and to encourage you to check out one of the performances if you’re intrigued!
Cryin’ to Cry Out, choreographed by Complexions co-founder Dwight Rhoden, featured gorgeous music, by Ella Fitzgerald, Jimmy Scott, and Shirley Horn. My memory fails me on what \ songs were featured in the piece, but there were two, and each one was a pas de deux. Both were beautifully executed, but it was the second, featuring Ashley Mayeux and Andrew Brader, that particularly stood out to me. There was a playfulness and awareness in the way they danced together that made them a joy to watch. They were in sync, with a connection and energy that made the piece so fun to watch.
Approximate Sonata, original choreography by William Forsythe and re-staged by Jill Johnson and Desmond Richardson, had a totally different energy but was fascinating. Jillian Davis and Tercell Waters dance a pas de deux full of tension. I felt like I was watching the negotiation of a fraught romantic relationship – one with elements of abuse and co-dependence, as each dancer pushed or pulled the other into the shape he or she desired, as a dancer occasionally stopped to walk away before being inexplicably drawn back in, as a dancer slapped a foot against the ground to pull the other dancer back in.
And then, in the last few moments, something is revealed that casts the relationship into a different light – I won’t spoil it, in case you see the performance, but let me say the dual versions of this piece are still playing in my head days later.
Desmond Richardson, in his solo piece Imprint/Maya, inspired by Dr. Maya Angelou, was powerful, inhabiting the solo that was so clearly made for him with his whole body, with sharp gestural movements and fluid motion.
It’s been over ten years since I was a dancer, but watching Complexions made me want to go back to class. Barring (sorry, can’t help it, dance pun) that, I definitely want to go to more dance performances… and rewatching Center Stage is on my to-do list now, too.
Complexions will be performing at the Joyce Theater on 8th Ave through Sunday, November 29. Tickets begin at $10, and more information about the show can be found on their site and on the Joyce Theater website. Let me know if you make it to a performance! (And if you’re in Atlanta, they’re heading your way soon!)