BWW Review: COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET CELEBRATES THE ARTISTRY OF DAVID BOWIE at The Joyce Theater
Founded in 1994 by master choreographer Dwight Rhoden, as a company Complexions Contemporary Ballet lives up to its name. These agile dancers of different races and cultures remind us how dance connects us with our humanity. During its two-week engagement (Nov. 14-26 2017) at The Joyce Theater in New York City, the company performed four new works, plus the return of audience favorite, "Star Dust," a ballet tribute to rock legend David Bowie.
We attended a family Saturday matinee performance with two acts. Prior to the performance, a Joyce Theater spokesperson gave a shout out to the young dance fans in the audience, saying, "It's like inviting the kids to the grown-up table for dance."
Act 1 was the world premiere of "Goodnight," by the company's Associate Artistic Director, Jae Man Joo. The sparse piece moved like a living, breathing watercolor painting and it takes its inspiration from a famed 15th century painting, "Dream Journey to the Peach Blossom Land," by Korean landscape painter, An Gyeon. Set to the sparse yet extraordinarily emotional works of modern composers Arvo Part and Gavin Bryars, "Goodnight" is a beautifully articulated dance, particularly in the closing section where male and female dancers costumed in mustard yellow and red-fringed bodysuits (a nod to the previous section where an abstract audio recording paid homage to saffron) are partnered and intertwined.
The main attraction, however, was the second act - "Star Dust," also choreographed by Rhoden. The 40-minute dance premiered in May 2016 in Detroit, Michigan, and this is the kind of spirited rock opera that would do well as a stand-alone show on Broadway. Thankfully, this is the first installment of an evening length, ballet tribute to the androgynous rock star.
Complete with a glittery gold curtain and Ziggy Stardust-inspired glam rock makeup and costumes, "Star Dust" brings nine of Bowie's chameleonic songs to life - from the folk rock of the '70s to the upbeat pop-funk of the '80s to the melancholy indie rock released shortly before his untimely death in January 2016.
The Bowie tribute ballet opened with "Lazarus," a somber yet triumphant song about resurrection from the Brit music icon's final album, Blackstar. Bolstered by company dancers Brandon Gray, Andrew Brader, Greg Blackmon, Addison Ector, Malik Berry, Kelly Marsh IV, Jillian Davis, YoungSil Kim and Simon Plant, the program followed with "Changes"; "Life on Mars"; "Space Oddity"; "1984"; "Heroes" (a version sung by Peter Gabriel); "Modern Love"; "Rock and Roll Suicide" and "Young Americans."
Sauntering across the stage gracefully en pointe, Addison Ector is a standout in "Space Oddity." And the full company dancing gleefully and cheekily to "Modern Love" is a jubilant highlight. The one misstep of the performance was the creative choice to have the dancers lip-sync along with a few of the songs. Bowie's genre-shifting music is strong enough to speak for itself, and so is Complexions' dexterous dancing.