Normally, Thanksgiving does not include New York’s lower east side, sharing a bowl of Vietnamese noodles with just my younger sis and an absence of rowdy children. I found myself this year, celebrating in the most non-traditional of ways. I travelled from my home in Atlanta to the bustle of the Big Apple. Luckily, this unusual holiday also included a wonderful contemporary ballet company at the Joyce Theater. Complexions were worth the plane, train and automobile it took to see.
Under the artistic direction of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, this company is a multicultural dance ensemble that blurs the lines between point shoes and bare feet. The dancers wear the classical shoes and have long lean, muscular bodies. Rhoden is a modern artist. He utilizes unmistakable ballet training, then tilts, twists, wrings it out, and breaks it apart to create high energy work. His choreography is unexpected. Like an oyster, it’s edgy and refined at the same time. The work maintains a legginess from the ballet genre but you never know where those legs are going.
With a name like Complexions, the skin is an essential costuming device. For example, in Hissy Fits the dancers wore very small nude shorts and some had tank tops, all of which accentuated the skin tones of the performers and added an intense dimension to the visual experience. It also allows the viewers to see every line, plié, battement, wiggle and curve.
Throughout the run at the Joyce, the company provided 3 different programs which is an extraordinary body of work. I had the privilege of seeing program B and wish I could have experienced all of them.
One cannot mention this company without a nod to the absolute perfection of Desmond Richardson. He is the face of the company, and in his three minutes on stage he lived up to and exceeded his reputation. If Solo (1998) was the only thing I had seen that evening, I would have been satisfied. His grand stature and flawless execution married with his emotional investment in the work leaves nothing to be criticized. All one can do is sit back, suspend reality and get lost in his performance. He is a master, in the same league as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Savion Glover and (for this reviewer) Eddie Taketa.
Through all the virtuosic dancing a strange theme emerged – hugs. They appeared in almost every piece. Mixing an embrace into unbelievable choreography, creating dynamics between the simple and the complicated is a lovely way to give the audience eye a break. The everyman can identify with this basic human expression. These are moments where dance lovers can take a breath and think, “Oh… I understand that.” It felt like warm appreciation for attending their concert. I would like to return the gratitude tenfold for the extensions, surprises, every articulation, sweat and an experience I will carry with me and share forever.