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Complexions Contemporary Ballet 2017 at the Joyce

A sexy, technically strong troupe of dancers are the perfect instrument for their director’s choreography.

Andrew Brader and Jillian Davis in a scene from Dwight Rhoden’s “Glitter Glitter” (Photo credit: Moira Geist)

Andrew Brader and Jillian Davis in a scene from Dwight Rhoden’s “Glitter Glitter” (Photo credit: Moira Geist)

Joel Benjamin

Joel Benjamin, Critic

Complexions Contemporary Ballet just completed an exciting season at their New York City home base, the Joyce Theater in Chelsea.  Directed by its resident choreographer, Dwight Rhoden, and its former star dancer, Desmond Richardson, the company displayed its slick, sexy approach to ballet in two programs.

Both programs featured the New York premiere of Rhoden’s “Star Dust, A Ballet Tribute to David Bowie” in nine parts, each part allowing a different soloist to show off and even display a bit of lip-synching and—shades of the Trocks!—point work.  Program A also contained Rhoden’s first installments of “Gutter Glitter,” an overlong, but well-danced tribute to the communicative skills of his lithe and beautiful dancers.

“Gutter Glitter,” the first installment of The Collage Series, was set to a number of musical pieces in different genres—rock, pop, electronic, light classical—that didn’t quite form a smooth whole.  Christine Darch dressed the large cast in chic practice outfits.  Michael Korsch’s lighting made the lack of a set a non-issue.

The troupe zipped about the stage in lines that crossed and dispersed across the stage, only to coalesce with the dancers showing off purposely simple classroom ballet poses, providing pauses in the otherwise slowly frenetic action.  The combination of classical ballet—including toe work—plus the exaggeratingly twisted plastique poses used in Voguing (made famous by Madonna) and the suggestions of sexual couplings kept the long work sort of interesting.  The duets had a soft-edged violent feel that never quite resolved.  The reason these people weren’t physically nicer to each other is obscure, more a sense of style for its own sake, than choreographic meaning.  There were all sorts of combinations like four men partnering one woman; men grabbing each other stiltedly; women squeezed together sculpturally, all the while finding momentary peace in the classical ballet steps.

“So Not A…(An Epilogue to Gutter Glitter),” set to Handel was a duet for Natiya Kezevadze and Clifford Williams, both dressed in short—unisexually clichéd corsets—designed by Ms. Darch.  Again, Mr. Korsch did his magic with his theatrical lighting instruments, making the machinations of these two fine dancers feel as if their relationship mattered.  Whether soloing on opposite sides of the stage or entwining their limbs, the two dancers were admirable in their response to Rhoden’s steps.

Terk Waters and Complexions Contemporary Ballet in in a scene from Dwight Rhoden’s “Star Dust” (Photo credit: Moira Geist)

Terk Waters and Complexions Contemporary Ballet in in a scene from Dwight Rhoden’s “Star Dust” (Photo credit: Moira Geist)

“Star Dust,” Rhoden’s tribute to rock original David Bowie forced Rhoden to study and use each of the nine chosen songs as vignettes to comment on Bowie’s magic, the superb quirkiness of his dancers and display subtlety in his use of steps sometimes missing from his wham-bang, jet engine choreography.  Rotating lights and disco balls beamed mood-changing pools of light on the stage (designed by the hard-working Mr. Korsch with psychedelically colorful costumes and makeup by Ms. Darch which exposed a lot of skin.)

In “Space Oddity,” a young man in a glittering costume, his hair blowing in the breeze, wandered around on point, mouthing the words.  The small ensemble of women surround him were on point, too, making an interesting statement of gender uncertainty, far deeper than even the Trocks ever managed.

Hunky, large Andrew Brader was given stuttering movements that matched the stuttering “ch-ch-ch” syllable that was the rhythmic theme of “Changes.”

In “Young Americans,” the closing number, Rhoden pulled out all the shtick in his ballet bag and molded his entire cast into a joyous kick line that was both camp and old-fashioned at the same time.

Rhoden caught Bowie’s raspy originality which joined seamlessly with old-fashioned rock and roll and pop music.  The dancers, from the lip-synchers to the toe dancers to the disco wrigglers took Rhoden’s steps and ran with them.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet (January 24 – February 5, 2017)

Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-242-0800 or visit http://www.Joyce.org

Running time:  two hours, including one intermission

Joel Benjamin
About Joel Benjamin (163 Articles)
JOEL BENJAMIN was a child performer on Broadway and danced with leading modern dance and ballet companies. Joel has been attending theater, ballet and opera performances ever since childhood, becoming quite opinionated over the years. He was the founder and artistic director of the American Chamber Ballet and subsequently was massage therapist to the stars before becoming a reviewer and memoirist. He is a member of the Outer Critics Circle.

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