BWW Review: BWW REVIEW: COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET BRINGS ITS FLAVOR TO THE JOYCE THEATER at Joyce Theater
Founding Artistic and Executive Directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson founded Complexions Contemporary Ballet in 1994. Richardson enjoyed a stellar performing career, having danced with numerous prestigious dance companies, including American Ballet Theatre where he was the first African American principal dancer, as well as Broadway shows. Rhoden, who is the principal choreographer of Complexions, has danced with contemporary and jazz companies and has become a sought-after choreographer.
As the name suggests, Complexions is composed of dancers of a variety of hues. well as skin tone variation, the dancers come in many shapes and sizes. a whole, the dancers are good, certainly a higher level of performers than the last time I saw this company (February 2017). While it was not easy for me to discern the names of the dancers from their headshots (in the program), I am able to call out a couple of my favorites. Tatianna Melendez, who danced a leading role in Woke with fluidity and enormous energy, is small but powerful. She exudes both technique and artistry. I'd be happy to see her dance a variety of choreographies, to stretch her talents. Vincenzo Di Primo, who grew up in Adrano, Sicily, Italy, dances with passion and confidence. His demeanor and way of moving reminds me of some of the best ballet dancers. It was fun to see him simply run or even walk across the stage. He is a good partner too, even when he partners someone larger than he is. Certainly, there were some other good performances, but, as previously stated, it's not easy to call them out given the way the program is designed.
January 28th was the opening night of Program B, composed of two of Rhoden's works. Bach 25, which premiered April 2018, to music of Johann Sebastian Bach and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, was performed by the company, wearing striking costumes of silver and bronze variations, costume design by Cristine Darch. Legs were bare as were the chests of the men. Lighting design by Michael Korsch was well done.
Woke premiered February 2019, also danced by the company. Music was of various contemporary artists. Korsches lighting design was effective. Darch's costumes were again created as individual designs, this time in subdued colors, bare legs and bare male chests.
While there were some interesting moments in both pieces, particularly in some pas de deux excerpts, Rhoden tends to choreograph every note, even in the rare adagio segments, thus creating a one-dimensional effect, leaving the choreography without a variety of complexions. The effect was disappointingly frenetic. Rhoden displayed an affinity for high extensions (leg lifts), which he employed repeatedly in both ballets in program B. It seemed like eating chocolate or another chosen food every day, three times a day until it was no longer special...dare I say, "Chocolate again?!".
Photo credit: Nina Wurtzel