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BWW Review: COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET Presents Two Programs

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Complexions Contemporary Ballet, founded in 1994 by Co-Artistic Directors, Dwight Rhoden, choreographer and Desmond Richardson, legendary dancer, is currently in its second week of its season at The Joyce Theater. All works in both programs have been choreographed by Rhoden, resident choreographer. On Wednesday, February 1, 2017, I attended Program B with excited anticipation.

The evening opened with Ballad Unto..., which premiered in Philadelphia, PA, in October 2015, by the Tulsa Ballet, for whom it was created. The stage was smoke filled, visible in the streams of light offered by overhead spotlights, lighting and set design by Michael Korsch. The costumes, designed by Christine Darch, were good-looking high-waisted shorts for the men and strapless-look leotards for the women in hues of red, orange, and purple, with bare legs. Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue and Partita #2 - Chaconne) filled the theater as seven couples danced with high energy, an energy that never quit throughout. The frenetic pace never let up. Every note was choreographed, never a change of pace. There were moments of fluidity, broken by awkward poses. About half way through the piece, the girls changed their pointe shoes for ballet slippers. Nothing else changed, not the pace, not the vocabulary, not the feeling. "Composed in three movements, Ballad Unto... is ultimately a tale of love and connection - where destiny is the wild card that charts its course into deeply beautiful places; where in the power of these rich alliances ultimately lies the fantasy that decides their fate."

Star Dust, A Ballet Tribute to David Bowie, NYC premiere (world premiere - May 2016, Detroit, MI), includes nine songs by this prolific rock star, who passed about a year ago. He recorded twenty-five albums during his forty plus year career. The sold-out theater included many of his piers, who had come, no doubt, to experience this tribute to Bowie, keeping him current. I'll admit that I, too, was hungry for a Bowie reboot. The costumes, by Darch, were colorful and unconventional, reminiscent of the artist. The make-up included painted face tattoos for some. Lighting and set design, by Korsch, also tried to bring back the essence of Bowie with streams of fine light and sparkle. The energy level of this work seemed to be a continuation of Ballad Unto...., with the same unstoppable high energy and frenetically paced movement. Dancers moved on and off the stage in varying numbers, yet there was no variance of level or feeling. It felt like classical steps were being done without purpose. Different men lip-synched some of the songs, as they and the company danced. Again, the girls changed out of their pointe shoes for no apparent reason, this time, towards the end of the piece. Program Note: "Star Dust pays homage to the iconic and chameleonic spirit of what can only be described as... BOWIE."

Complexions Contemporary Ballet will be at The Joyce Theater through February 5, 2017.

Photo credit: Ani Collier


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