Week Seven at Jacob's Pillow
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
By: Pillow - Jul 12, 2023
July 12, 2023 (BECKET, Mass.)— Week 7 of the 2023 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival welcomes the dynamic New York-based company Complexions Contemporary Ballet, making their Pillow debut this summer. Complexions will take the stage in the Ted Shawn Theatre from Aug. 9-13. On the outdoor Henry J. Leir Stage, Canadian company Decidedly Jazz Danceworks will also make their Pillow debut, performing from Aug. 9-13. Tickets for all performances are on sale now.
In addition to these performances is a multi-day residency in the Sommers Studio for artists exploring the intersection of dance and technology. From Aug. 8-10, audiences can view demonstrations and speak with the artists on their work. The residency will conclude with a free PillowTalk on Sunday afternoon, led by the artists. A free community workshop in Pittsfield will take place on Thursday, led by Joanne Baker, Artistic Outreach Associate with Decidedly Jazz Danceworks. This all-levels workshop will incorporate rhythm, community, and musical connection.
Dutch architect Francine Houben will participate in a free PillowTalk on Saturday in Blake’s Barn, discussing the design of the reimagined Doris Duke Theatre, anticipated to open in 2025. On Saturday afternoon, Adam Weinert will lead a free public tour of Jacob’s Garden, departing from the Welcome Center. And on Sunday morning, Complexions will hold a workshop for intermediate/advanced dancers ages 12+ in their signature technique NIQUE, a style integrating modern fundamentals and ballet vocabulary, developed by Artistic Directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson.
“It’s thrilling to be hosting the Pillow debuts of two major companies this week,” said Pamela Tatge, Executive and Artistic Director of Jacob’s Pillow. ”New York City-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet has been touring the country and the world for nearly three decades with their high-intensity evolution of ballet set to classical and popular music, while Decidedly Jazz Danceworks is coming to us all the way from Calgary, Canada, and is one of the best and most entertaining jazz dance companies performing today with a spectacular live band. Both companies are not to be missed!”
Founded by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, Complexions will make its Pillow debut with a program featuring STAR DUST, a one-act tribute to the genre-bending innovation of rock star David Bowie that features many of Bowie’s iconic hit songs. The Los Angeles Times said the piece “highlights how well-matched Complexions is to the genre-hopping, categorization-defying Bowie.” Other works in the program include an excerpt from Hissy Fits, a “sleek” piece set to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach (LA Dance Chronicle), and an excerpt from SNATCHED BACK from the EDGES, Rhoden’s time capsule of 2020 angers, worries, and desires to connect.
Also making their Pillow debut in Week 7, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks, from Calgary, Canada, is a crowd-pleasing favorite with a style that has been described as “music for the eyes.” They are known for exceptional musicality and a rhythmic, percussive aesthetic. The full company comes to the Pillow for their week-long engagement on the Leir Stage, accompanied by the six-piece Rubim de Toledo Ensemble with vocalist Karimah.
Alongside these performances is a week-long residency in the Sommers Studio, where artists demonstrate their work integrating dance and technology. Artists include Catie Cuan, a pioneer in the nascent field of ‘choreorobotics’, Grisha Coleman, a time-based artist working in performance and experiential media, and Andrew Schneider, an OBIE award-winning, Drama Desk nominated performer, writer, and interactive-electronics artist. Sydney Skybetter, who researches the intersection of dance and emergent technologies and has consulted with projects in human computer interfaces, will act as the consulting facilitator of the residency.
ABOUT COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET
For nearly three decades, Complexions Contemporary Ballet has thrilled audiences around the globe with its full-throttle, high-intensity performances on five continents and in over 20 countries, committed to its mission of “bringing unity to the world one dance at a time.” The diverse and inclusive company is made up of dancers “who blur lines and boundaries and exude an innate passion” (The Guardian). With their programs set to music from Kendrick Lamar, David Bowie, Metallica, and Lenny Kravitz, the company reinvents ballet with a mix of methods, styles, and cultures that engages and delights.
Headed by Artistic Directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, Complexions has received prominent honors, including The New York Times Critics’ Choice Award. While their “daring, edgy repertoire” (Pointe Magazine) has garnered popularity, the company’s steadfast commitment to diversity sets them apart in American contemporary ballet. Their foremost mission is to create dance that removes boundaries, continually evolving to reflect the movement of the world – and all its cultures – as part of an interconnected whole.
ABOUT DECIDEDLY JAZZ DANCEWORKS
A 39-year-old jazz company from Calgary, Decidedly Jazz Danceworks (DJD) is “Canada’s finest jazz dance company” (Calgary Herald), dedicated to the rich traditions and boundless future of jazz dance. Dancing in the spirit of jazz, DJD recognizes themselves as guests in a form born out of Black American culture and the African American experience. DJD strives to create a wide and inclusive community of artists that contributes meaningfully to the future of jazz dance, prioritizing human connection and personal expression.
DJD began in 1984 with Vicki Williams, founder of the jazz dance department at the University of Calgary, and two of her graduating students, Michèle Moss and Hannah Stillwell, who sought to keep the spirit of jazz alive. Central to DJD is the “essential jazz relationship” between dancers and musicians: the company has worked with live music every season since 1988. DJD will make its debut at Jacob’s Pillow with their evening length work Family of Jazz, called “an explosion of sparks” by The Dance Current. The program was choreographed by Kimberley Cooper, who has served as Artistic Director since 2013.
Jacob’s Pillow Connections
Melanie George, Associate Curator and Director of Artistic Initiatives at Jacob’s Pillow, created a piece for Decidedly Jazz Danceworks called Groove Theory in 2022.
Desmond Richardson, who co-directs Complexions, appeared at the Pillow with RhythMEK in 2000 and presented a one-time performance of a rare José Limón dance in 2001, while fellow director Dwight Rhoden’s work was performed here by Carmen de Lavallade and Gus Solomons jr in 2001.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance Interactive:
Desmond Richardson performing in Episodes (Living in the Present Moment), a work by the company RhythMEK, 2000:
Paradigm’s It All, with choreography by Dwight Rhoden, 2004: