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Complexions Contemporary Ballet



Andrew Kay & Associates presents COMPLEXIONS Contemporary Ballet at the PARADE THEATRE,Kensington.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet was co-founded in 1994 by dancer Desmond Richardson and choreographer Dwight Rhoden, former members of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. Complexions is a New York based company. “The company’s foremost innovation is that dance should be about removing boundaries, not reinforcing them. Whether it be the limiting traditions of a single style, period, or culture, Complexions transcends them all, creating an open, continually evolving form of dance that reflects the movement of our world – and all its constituent cultures- as an interrelated whole.”

In a three-act formula this company of 17 dancers (including Desmond Richardson, Fouding Artistic Co-Director) presents a very generous and exhausting evening of ballet/dance.

All of the works reveal the choreography of Dwight Rhoden. Act One is a company work MOON OVER JUPITER. Act two presents three smaller works: MOODY BOOTY BLUES for five dancers, GOLDBERG VARIATIONS, a solo performed by Desmond Richardson and ON HOLIDAY a sextet. Act Three, RISE, a company work to the music of U2.

The most satisfying experience was the smaller work in the second act. Each of the dancers revealed in quick solos and other combinations demonstrating their strengths in dance technique, personality and sexuality – the solo dance by Mr Richardson particularly impressive for its physical beauty and constructions.

The sixteen dancers of the ensemble are of diverse training backgrounds, physical types, heights, shapes and sizes. All of them very exciting dancers in their own right. This combination of the stylistic contrasts of the dancers and choreographic solutions were at first intriguing, but progressively less engaging.

What was mostly unsatisfying was the inability of the company to dance as an ensemble. The inaccuracies of timing by the individual dancers often presented a blurred vision of action (I was reminded of Marcel Duchamps’ cubist painting NUDE DESCENDING A STAITCASE). The few times where there was complete synchronisation was a respite of beauty. But there were not enough of these happy felicitations, and the act one and act three works grew tedious and dull. The discipline of ensemble was not sympatico – maybe too many ‘individuals’ in temperament and dance training styles for this amount of emphasis on ensemble choreography?

Too much of Mr Rhoden’s work in the one program gave an emphasis that highlighted repeated gestures of physical expressions. The visual resources became predictable and ultimately dull. Initial fresh impressions smothered by the continuum. The energy and the skill of the dancers did not compensate for the repeated and ill disciplined imagery. Disconnection ensued.

There was no set design compensation for the eyes. The costume design by Christine Darch, mostly, and DM Design were models of empathetic apparel for the dancers and the movement. The Sydney Dance Company could well observe. The tour lighting rig and design by Michael Korsch inventive and flexible in support of the dance.

Earlier this year I was fortunate to attend the ballet/dance Broadway work of Twyla Tharp: COME FLY AWAY, and still carry the memories of that work, that far outstrip those on offer from Complexion Contemporary Ballet. Not least the ensemble dance work choreographed and disciplined by Ms Tharp and the amazing costume designs of Katherine Roth.

The audience was very appreciative of the performance by the Complexions Contemporary Ballet and were roused by the last work, suitably called RISE, to the music pounding of U2.