COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET
January 30, 2017
Complexions Contemporary Ballet does something no other American ballet company with an international profile has been able to do, no matter how hard they try: it truly embodies the colorful diversity of our country. The Complexions stage is littered with dancers that are black, white, Asian, Hispanic (looking, at least), with different bodies and roots from everywhere, and more importantly, it doesn’t really matter. Every single dancer on that stage is different, unique, and brilliant. And if that is not enough, Complexions also does something else no one does: it seamlessly integrates the “ballet” in its name – both technique and pointe work – with its founders’ vision of the contemporary. Hence Complexions has an unflagging popularity with young people, but also with dance lovers who feed on gorgeous, intense physicality.
Gutter Glitter, a world premiere by Dwight Rhoden (co-founder and artistic director with Desmond Richardson), began with a lovely sunray lighting effect (by Michael Korsch) and dancers in stretchy dark jeans or shorts breaking out of a line with whiplashing arms and legs in coordinated brash attacks of athleticism and sexy pelvic undulations, sometimes rolling swiftly across the floor into a clump, while Terk Lewis Waters’ solos showed off his sinewy, taut physicality.
Two last minute replacements for an injured Jillian Davis, Complexions veteran Kelly Sneddon and the talented Victoria Santaguida fearlessly integrated into the dizzying matrix with an astonishing command of the complex movement. Moments of classical technique – like Young-Sil Kim’s soulful balletic line – are woven into the fabric of a piece with high octane communal moments and yearning duets. Glitter culminated with Natiya Kezevadze and Clifford Williams, whose artistry turned their encounter into a poetic embodiment of the separateness between long-time partners, as they constantly pulled away from each other, their own individual struggles unresolved, yet still bonded together by time and place.
The NY premiere of Stardust, a tribute to David Bowie commissioned by the Detroit Music Hall, gave the audience a chance to relive some Bowie classics and lesser-known songs. Bowie look-alike Andrew Brader led the cast in a glitter covered, attitude-ridden romp, complete with streaked hair and glam make-up (with colorful costumes by Christine Darch). Each song was lip-synced by a different male dancer who made strong, in-your-face contact with the audience. Tim Stickney and Doug Baum were especially ferocious in this regard, with a relentless energy and swagger.
Another Complexions veteran, Ashley Nicole Mayeux (now with Ailey) and the statuesque Sierra French joined the cast at a moment’s notice with the right look, confidence and fluidity. Yet it was the gifted newcomer Sergio Arranz, whose unique combination of vulnerability as a man on pointe, with a beautiful line, and a budding confidence as an androgynous sexual being, that best captured the strange, enigmatic quality of Bowie himself.
Sometimes Rhoden’s choreography feels long, and has false endings: some sections have a built-in sense of closure in the choreography, or a blackout, and we think it’s done, but then there’s more. This matters less because his dancers, no matter who or where they are, or what has been asked of them, are stunning in their stamina and the power of their sleek dancing bodies – you just can’t stop watching them. Along with those mentioned above, let’s name them: Addison Ector, Anthony Javier Savoy, Gregory Blackmon, Jennie Begley, Kelly Marsh IV, Kylie Jefferson, Larissa Gerszke, Shanna Irwin, Laura Lopez, and Charles Michael Patterson.
Eye on the Arts, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson