From Sinner Man to Othello to Mr. Bojangles, Desmond Richardson keeps finding new avenues for his awesome dancing talent. He rocked City Center with explosive, riveting performances when he was barely out of his teens, juicing up the Alvin Ailey repertory with his muscular virtuosity. After eight years there, he went to Frankfurt Ballet for a three-year immersion in William Forsythe’s intricate creations. New York last saw him as a principal with ABT, where he was the dramatic center of Lar Lubovitch’s Othello and one of three sleek, playful athletes in Nacho Duato’s intriguing Remanso.
Now Richardson, who just turned 30, makes his Broadway debut in Fosse: A Celebration in Song & Dance. He landed the gig by chance, at the suggestion of Elizabeth Parkinson, a friend in the cast. Next thing he knew, he was on leave from ABT.
“I always wanted to do musical theater, and I knew a lot about Fosse,” he says at a midtown café, where he quickly locates the most intensely chocolate dessert on the menu. “I was so intrigued by his work. The women were very long and statuesque but very feline. It was a definite challenge for me. But it was close to how I like to move anyway—sinuously, on a continuum.” Fosse’s penchant for isolating body parts had a familiar feel: “I started as a street dancer, so I love isolation and detail.”
Richardson performs many numbers, including the demanding solo Percussion 4, a trio made for TV in the ’60s and not seen since, and a fantasy sequence from All That Jazz. “There’s an amazing vulnerability to the work, and there’s such passion in it,” he observes. He’s also keeping busy with Complexions, the company he codirects with choreographer Dwight Rhoden, now preparing for performances in Lyon. “We’re working a lot more in Europe right now,” he notes. In September he danced a new Forsythe work with Alessandra Ferri for the La Scala Opera Ballet. Seems he’s been just about everywhere already, but for the moment, Broad way’s got him.