Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dance Review: Complexions at The Joyce

Complexions, Dwight Rhoden & Desmond Richardson, Artistic Directors If you are in that camp that only wants to see super-human trinas with well-toned, to-die-for bodies, crazy extensions, and legs for days, then Complexions is the dance company to see.  For their 15th anniversary season at The Joyce Theater, Complexions presents four brand new works.  Tonight, I get the chance to witness two of them.

The evening begins with a piece called Dirty Wire choreographed by Co-Artistic Director, Dwight Rhoden, of course.  The piece starts with dancers standing in a straight vertical line in a pool of light shining from above.  The dancers burst out from the line, dancing to rock music in movement that is very signature "Rhoden" -very technical yet fluid combinations of lifts, 180 degree penchés, and perfect splits.  This piece is a series of intricate duets showcasing Rhoden’s complex movement style that I can’t take my eye’s off because the movement demands that you look, and, essentially, study it so that you know exactly what’s going on.  In general, all of the couples are well-connected to each other, flawlessly working in, out, and around each other’s bodies as if they are one person.  I am drawn to Christie Partelow and Edgar Anido’s movement as they prove to be a very daring couple, trusting their entire being into each other’s hands.  I thought to myself, "man, if they mess up, they are really gonna fall on each other!"  Amazing…  It is this sort of edge that I am loving.

For Dirty Wire, I am captivated as I am often when looking at Rhoden’s movement, but eventually my eyes grow accustomed to his vocabulary.  To my reluctant dismay, the entire piece morphs into a series of duets that begin to look the same as technique overshadows any individuality and movement becomes almost predictable because the piece has the same formula throughout making me only wonder why, why, why…  What is this piece really all about?   As a reviewer, I choose not to look at program descriptions before I begin to view a piece; I try to feel what the choreographer is saying without any preconceived notions by solely looking at the material presented in front of me.  However, because the movement rides on top of the music (and not truly "in" the music), and only at times hits certain accents that the music demands, and does not develop any ideas beyond the movement vocabulary itself, it leaves me confused.   Watching these gorgeous dancers, though, is truly inspiring; everyone is ecstatic at the end, as I am too, but I am left wondering if I am the only one searching for some answers (maybe not, though, for I do hear people around me flipping through pages of the program most likely to find some sort of piece description).

Are You FierceOpening the second half of the show is a piece called Mercy, also choreographed by Rhoden.  The dancers perform only the first and second movement (as the piece is a saga in it’s entirety).  The piece is danced to a medley of mixed sanctuary; Muslim prayers and church hymns are performed over each other in a interesting, funky mix.  The music is comprised of a number of artists including Phil Kline, Michael Murray, Steve Reich, Mendelssohn, and Hans Zimmer.  At first, I begin to think that I don’t see much difference in this piece than the first one as the movement is all very signature.  However, the piece eventually breaks out of the mold as dancers fan in and out, asking for "mercy," emerging from curtains from the back of the stage adding a great touch.

Complexions is full of VERY talented, uber-technical performers, but, because Mercy has more of a "contemporary edge," it is this piece where I begin to see the difference in performance qualities of the dancers.   Some of the dancers, mostly the females,  I frankly just don’t "believe."  Although their technique is nearly flawless, I leave this piece longing to see more connection in their faces and intention within their artistry.  I am also bothered at some points as the dancers don’t really stay together in some of the movement.  As far as the males, they kick “you know what” in this piece, jumping up and down with hands in prayer position, falling into second position splits, and rolling over the shoulder all over the stage.  Athleticism?  …Yes!  …The intention? …Well, interpretable.  It is awesome, however, to see Desmond Richardson emerge from the curtain (one of the finest, most talented dance artist alive today) as he does a remarkable job (showing us dancers how it’s done) wrapping intention, emotion, and technique in one performance.  Solo dancer, Gary W. Jeter II, also grabs my eye with his committed performance and fierce attack.  This rather lengthy piece ends with a section performed to "Amazing Grace" which, again, is another place where I don’t "believe," and I feel this cast of dancers’ disconnection from the work bothersome as they lip sync some of the words. 

Overall, Complexions has acquired a solid bunch of dancers who are really at the top of their game.  The dancers’ technique is highly inspiring and the choreography is definitely a demanding challenge for any world class dancer to want to master.  I am looking forward to the day that they find that happy medium, that performance optimum that merges flawless technique with human connection.  For if collectively they can perform their passion anywhere close to their co-founder, Desmond Richardson, I know, as a company, they will go far… real far.

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Official Dance Review by Joi Lynn
Performance:  Complexions 
Co-Artistic Directors: Dwight Rhoden & Desmond Richardson
Choreography:  Dwight Rhoden
Venue:  The Joyce Theater
Show Date:  November 17, 2009


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