Complexions Contemporary Ballet, at Jacob’s Pillow
A Most Powerful Ballet Company
By: Astrid Hiemer - Aug 15, 2023
COMPLEXIONS CONTEMPORARY BALLET AT JACOBS PILLOW
Founding Co-Artistic Directors: Dwight Rhoden & Desmond Richardson
Associate Artistic Director: Meg Paul
Principal Choreographer: Dwight Rhoden
Interim Executive Director: Muadi B. Dibing
Artistic Advisors: Carmen de Lavallade & Sarita Alle
Rehearsal Directors: Meg Paul & Jae Man Joo
Resident Lighting Designer: Michael Korsch
Director of Production & Lighting Supervisor: Joseph Walls
Stage Manager: Jacob Wexler
The Company: Alberto Andrade, Christian Burse, Jacopo Calvo, Kobe Atwood Courtney, Jasmine Heart Cruz, Jillian Davis, Vincenzo Di Primo, Chloe Dureyea, Joe Gonzalez, Alexander Haquia, Marissa Mattingly, Miguel Solano, Lucy Stewart, Candy Tong, April Watson, Apprentices: Angelo De Serra, Laura Perich
In Europe the curtain would open time and again when an audience applauds and yells as much as this Sunday! There would be numerous curtain calls, until audience and performers would leave ‘happy.’ The enthusiasm of the audience today at the last performance of the Complexions’ Contemporary Ballet program of the week as well as last Sunday during the hip hop program, of Hip Hop Across The Pillow was palpable, yet when the curtain closed, the standing audiences stopped clapping, turned around and began to leave.
Perhaps that’s the difference between two continents. What a pity though: the energy, appreciation, enthusiasm, exuberance, and personal and community process of resolve to an exceptional communal experience gets short changed - in my opinion!
Also, perhaps, it’s not accidental that Complexions followed the Hip Hop Festival. The performance started with an excerpt of Hissy Fits, 2006, to ongoing very loud percussion, sounding like drum beats, to, as per program, J.S. Bach music... The tough contemporary ballet/dance style of this company is 'hard charging,’ with endlessly angular movements and they perform perfectly all classical ballet turns and steps. The women dancers were en pointe during more than three pieces. Some of these performers with heavy and wide steps, en pointe, would nearly cross the entire stage. What power!
Dwight Rhoden is the company’s exclusive choreographer. He has produced more than 80 works so far as well as numerous others for international contemporary and classical ballet companies as well as commercial productions. He is highly sought after and so is Desmond Richardson, the other Co-Artistic and Founding Director of now nearly 30 years ago. And, yet, this was the very first appearance at Jacob’s Pillow of this company. Why, I wonder? COMPLEXIONS has toured the dance world internationally during nearly three decades.
The lighting design is complex, costumes minimal yet effective. During Hissy Fits, in the dark and foggy environment, one had a difficult time even recognizing body suits on the dancers, as intended, while the stage was lit by a few sharp and super bright spot lights. Bodies of the entire company were just moving in perfect unison; it was electrifying!
Another excerpt, Endgame/Love One, 2022, a duet danced by Chloe Duryea and Miguel Solano, again danced to Bach’s music, presented a loving and different side of choreographer and soloists.
Then, to Sven Helbig’s new music for Pocket Symphony, 2023, showcased six dancers. And Snatched Back from the Edges, 2021, with music by Tye Tribbett again presented the entire company to loud and cutting sounds, which appears to be COMPLEXIONS style.
Also, before intermission, Jillian Davis performed Elegy, 2020, a solo work that is dedicated in memoriam. And Jillian Davis, a woman, is the tallest person of the company, hard to be missed or better said, she becomes a focal point when on stage. She is, indeed, an exquisite dancer. Well, there are many sides to the choreographer and dancers.
Which, again, was evident after intermission: Star Dust, 2016, is comprised of nine songs by David Bowie. And it started with Lazarus, 2016, from Bowie’s last, Blackstar album, dark and haunting pieces written and performed by him during the last year of his life. We know it well! The soloist, Joe Gonzalez, is lifted up high – into heaven or back to life – by a group of dancers.
The other eight short songs and dances range from Changes to Space Oddity, from 1984 to Young Americans. They all present different soloists, proof of the star quality of many dancers in the company.
One of their sayings is: Complexions… ~ is the company of an amalgam of dancers of any race, size, and gender who fit into an American dance community with no, or perhaps, little biases. ”Anyone can dance with us as long as they are kick-ass dancers!” And the training is based on Rhoden and Richardson’s inventive style and vision of human movement, which they also teach world-wide.
Hopefully, it will not be that even another decade goes by before
Complexions Contemporary Ballet returns to The Pillow.