BWW Review: Poetry in Motion: FROM BACH TO BOWIE at Providence Performing Arts Center
Your intrepid reviewer headed off last Wednesday night to the Providence Performing Arts Center (PPAC) for the Complexions Contemporary Ballet's performance of FROM BACH TO BOWIE, part of the FirstWorks Artistic Icons Series. The first half of the New York dance troupe's performance featured "Bach 25," a fusion of contemporary dance and ballet technique performed to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The second part was "Stardust," which turns an assortment of Bowie's hits into a rock-inspired ballet to honor him. Songs such as Lazarus," "Heroes," "Young Americans," "Life On Mars" and "Let's Dance" were featured. So, full disclosure, I am vastly unqualified to write a review about Bach, Bowie or dance. Now that we understand each other, here goes.
Here's the first question-did I have a good time? Yes, I did. Let's break it down into smaller bites! Did I like the Bach portion? Yes, for a few reasons. The dancers in the skin colored body suits were incredibly graceful and precise. The lighting by Michael Korsch would highlight on dancer or the other as the glided through a dreamlike haze. The first act ends with the Magnificat, a choral piece, and the addition of voices seemed to fill in any empty spaces in the performance.
After intermission, the ballet moved on to Star Dust, the David Bowie portion of the proceedings and, in Contemporary Ballet's own words, took "an array of his hits and (laid) a visual imprint, inspired by his unique personas and his restless invention artistically to create a Rock Opera style production in his honor." The opening seconds of the second act let you know the we have left Bach behind: a dazzling light display left the audience gasping and silhouetted the company members arrayed across the stage. Everything is livelier. The stains of "Lazarus" moves the dancers across the stage. As was the case in the Bach segment, it was still a joy to watch beautiful and graceful dancers move across the stage, now in multicolored costumes designed by Christine Darch, but I'm not sure what choreographer, and company co-founder Dwight Rhoden, gained by having lead dancers in each piece lip-synch the lyrics. On the other hand, seeing the ballerinas in the background slowly walk across the stage en point to Ground Control to Major Tom was particularly affecting. As to the performers, to my untrained eye Jillian Davis stood out. As graceful as any of the women dancers, she towered over them; it was hard not to watch her.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet was brought to PPAC through the auspices of FirstWorks, and arts organization that grew out of the late, lamented FirstNight. They bring world class artists and entertainers to Rhode Island, performers who not only entertain but challenge us to leave our comfort zones and experience something new. FirstWorks next event is PVD fest June 6 - 9. Watch for it; I bet it will be fun.
PPAC is a beautiful facility, located at 220 Weybosset St. in downtown Providence. It is an accessible venue with accessible bathrooms.
Photo credit: Sharen Bradford