Performing Arts: Dance
November 22, 2015
A two-week, three-program at The Joyce Theater marks Complexions Cotemporary Ballet’s 20th season, not to mention its last before relocating to Atlanta, GA this spring. In Program A, the multicultural company of 16 takes the audience from the soft romance of Bach to the fierce energy of Metallica. In a fluttering cascade of duets and solos and ladies en pointe, “Ballad Unto…” unravels the abstract love stories of seven couples. For fleeting sections they join together for an accented, unified movement phrase before splitting apart once more. The 20-minute opening work, which Rhoden originally created for Tulsa Ballet, has a definite neoclassical aire.

“Cryin’ to Cry Out” follows – a work inspired by Jazz vocalist Jimmy Scott which premiered in Philadelphia last month along with “Ballad Unto…” Naturally, a quirkier and more rhythmic style is embodied by the quartet of dancers. Sections of partner work add an intricate, sultry element.

The anticipated world premiere of “Imprint/Maya” is performed by Complexions co-founder, Desmond Richardson. The dance pays homage to the work and words of Maya Angelou and Richardson’s exquisite talent does not disappoint. Beginning below a lone spotlight, his performance is fluid and articulated; at times the movement is gestural, even hip hop oriented, then evolving into more suspended moments displaying his refined technique.

All works of the program were choreographed by founding Artistic Director Rhoden, with the exception of “Approximate Sonata,” which belongs to William Forsythe. This 1996 ballet had its Complexions premiere a decade ago, in a restaged pas de deux format. Dancers Jillian Davis and Terk Waters glide through the largely bare stage in a deconstructed rendition of the dancer’s rehearsal process. The pair travels from bouts of showy virtuosity to informal, in-studio encounters where one grabs at the arms of the other, positioning and repositioning them.

Rhoden’s closing work of the program fits the ideal, upbeat and flashy, finale model. “Strum”—set to Metallica—thrives on the intensity of the heavy metal band. The full company ensemble dons metallic silver costumes (by Christine Darch) below bright, colored lights. A ferocity and over-the-top quality is the driving force of the choreography, which appears to be the pure, physical representation of the music.

Despite the variety of Rhoden’s works that call upon the collective company ensemble, it remains those moments in which select dancers emerge as the core focus that his choreographic nuances and the admired athleticism of his dancers truly shine.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Jenny Thompson

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