Complexions Contemporary Ballet visited Parma and Luca Vantusso was there to capture a programme including pieces by the company's Artistic Director Dwight Rhoden – Ballad unto and Stardust.
Choreography: Dwight Rhoden
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach
Costume Design: Christine Darch
Lighting and Set Design: Michael Korsch
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach (Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue and Partita #2 – Chaconne) filled the theater as seven couples danced with high energy, an energy that never quit throughout. The frenetic pace never let up. Every note was choreographed, never a change of pace. There were moments of fluidity, broken by awkward poses. About half way through the piece, the girls changed their pointe shoes for ballet slippers. Nothing else changed, not the pace, not the vocabulary, not the feeling.
The Philadelphia Inquirer
In fall earth tones, the bare-chested men and the women en pointe formed patterns as dizzying as leaves swirling in a backing wind, then settled into calmer movements, as though the wind had died down. A difficult section where the women leaned back with arms locked around the back of the men's necks and the men's hands cradled the women's buttocks as they swung them out in circles was polished with precision and not too fast to miss.
The Net York Times – Gia Kourlas
“Ballad Unto …,” set to Bach and originally choreographed for Tulsa Ballet. A work for 14 dancers who fade in and out of Michael Korsch's dewy lighting, this ballet, an exploration of facets of love, echoes Mr. Rhoden's narrow choreographic palette with several pas de deux. Interspersed between group sections, they draw on George Balanchine's neo-Classical aesthetic, but too often feel like parody.
Complexions – the company blurb
“Complexions was founded in 1994 by Master Choreographer Dwight Rhoden and the legendary Desmond Richardson with a singular approach to reinventing dance through a groundbreaking mix of methods, styles and cultures. Today, Complexions represents one of the most recognized and respected performing arts brands in the World. Having presented an entirely new and exciting vision of human movement on 5-continents, over 20-countries, to over 20-million television viewers and to well over 300,000 people in live audiences, Complexions is poised to continue its mission of bring unity to the world one dance at a time.”
A Ballet Tribute to David Bowie
Choreographer: Dwight Rhoden
Music: David Bowie
Costume Design: Christine Darch
Lighting Design: Michael Korsch
Dwight Rhoden talking to the Los Angeles Times
My message, if there was any message, is that there's a little Bowie in all of us. That's because he was so different, and individual, and again he just consistently became anew. It almost felt like every time an album came out, he was in a new place.
He was so courageous and unafraid to reinvent himself over and over and over again, and that was just really compelling as a teenager and certainly into my young adult life.
His music is timeless. It will be the kind of music that people listen to and really recognize a certain time in the world or in your life. I think he chronicled the world we live in, really.
At no point when I was creating this work did I find it difficult to come up with movement. It was one of the most fluid and easy creative processes that I've had in a long time. It is so rhythmically dense, there's so much imagery in the lyrics, there's so many personas and characters and colors to his personality that it just lends itself to a performance of some kind. And I'm not done. I want more.
Sometimes dance gets the reputation of, you know, it has to be deep, dark and brooding. Sometimes it's just nice to have a great piece of music and have fun.
Complexions has a loyal fan base and has sometimes been criticised for playing to the crowd. Alastair Macaulay produced one of his most scathing reviews for a Complexions programme.
Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times
All the choreography was by Mr. Rhoden; all was efficiently horrid.
However, Rhoden replies to his critics.
Even if these also aren't lauded by critics, maybe it doesn't matter. It's the audience's reaction Rhoden seems more concerned about. “I don't want to have any rules or borders,” he says. And “sometimes I like to send the audience home with something that goes down a little easier,” he adds. “I'm not afraid to entertain you.”
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.