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BWW Reviews: Complexions Contemporary Ballet Comes To The Joyce

Following the completion of their fifteenth anniversary season and world tour, Complexions Contemporary Ballet has made its return to NYC and The Joyce Theater for the goup's annual two-week engagement. This year's lineup boasted two world premiere works by Dwight Rhoden, as well as a wide range of music from the Rolling Stones to Rachmaninov.

Complexions was founded by two former Alvin Ailey members, and this influence is clear from the get-go. Costumes (or lack there of) often play a large role in the choreography, including the movements of skirts, shirts, and loose pants in the swell of modern dance. The movements themselves are unique; dancers repeatedly jerk around the stage, leading with their elbows or waists. The choreography is specific and signature, bringing an intensity to every pause and repeat.

I attended the show for Program E, which began with the Complexions Company performing "Mercy." The piece is an excerpt of a longer work set to a series of chants, rhythms, and gospels. Much of the dancing takes place during long moments of preaching, which gives "Mercy" even stronger religious overtones. At moments the score hits peaks that evoke a level of anxiety in the audience, making the movements of the dancers feel frenzied in a way one can only imagine was the specific intention of Choreographer Dwight Rhoden. The choreography itself also alternates between a series of frenzied kicks and jolts and slow creeps and seemingly impossible body twists. The male dancers are truly the highlight of this piece, drawing your eye with every movement of their incredibly defined bodies.

After intermission the second act (revised on this date) consisted of several shorter pieces, including the world premiere of "Two By Four," with choreography set to the music of the Rolling Stones. As I am a huge Stones fan, it was this piece that I was most anticipating, however; "Two By Four" turned out to be my least favorite. Rhoden's choreography, though humorous, had dancers Natiya Kezevadze, Clifford Williams, Sabra Perry, and Tercell Waters staggering around the stage in mock drunkenness, subtracting from their apparent skill. And while it was nice to have a high note of fun and rock-n-roll after such a serious first act, the moves felt oddly forced. The joy of the music was not there, although the dancers did hold some wonderful smiles on their faces.

After two more performances "Surface" (an intriguing piece with modern dance and costumes set to music by Claude Debussy, performed with breathtaking skill by Gary Jeter and Edgar Anido,) and "Moody Booty Blues" (a short, lighthearted, and impressive display of the dancers incredible skills) there was a second intermission.

We returned for the final piece titled "Rise," which had all choreography set to the music of U2. Act III turned out to be my favorite act, as "Rise" brought a level of lightheartedness to the stage and mixed it with the extreme skill of the dancers. One of the more lovely moments was created with use of a lighted backdrop against the silhouetted dancers, all moving in unison to the upbeat music. The Complexions company beamed at the audience while performing their body twisting and logic defying movements, and the show went out on a high note with everyone standing and clapping along.

Once again Complexions has successfully brought a lovely breath of fresh air to the Joyce, and I am sure many are already anticipating their return in 2011.


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From This Author Gabrielle Sierra

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