In a dance universe where technical abilities have reached frightening levels, Complexions Contemporary Ballet provides a gasp of hope. The dancers are utterly adept, but humanized by their willingness to dedicate themselves wholly—almost religiously—to the idiosyncratic, relentless pieces that choreographer Dwight Rhoden bestows on them. Their weeklong run at NYU’s so-new-it-still-smells-like-a-doctor’s-office Skirball Center featured the world premieres of three pieces, including the evening-length Anthem. Severed into three sections (“Red/The Force,” “White/The Clearing,” “Blue/The Game”) and set to a smorgasbord of sounds from Hendrix to Mingus, Anthem fell victim to the jarring turns in its theme. Only when ash eerily fluttered from the rafters and settled on the stage floor (during “White,” based on the events of 9-11) did I feel myself exhale. The rest of the evening I held my breath, waiting for a climax that never came.
Climaxes arrived in droves during the second program of mixed repertoire. Rhoden’s style—ballet peppered with bird-like nods and spiraling twists of the wrists—was a fusion that brought the audience to its knees (and feet). Desmond Richardson (co-artistic director alongside Rhoden) added the perfect spice to the aesthetic melting pot: The duet he shares with the impeccable Sandra Brown during Irreverent Tingle—she on point, he intent on rescuing her—overflowed with their innate understanding of Rhoden’s vision. Other luminaries appeared as well. Prince Credell’s leaps and throws devoured space in Growth; it seemed shocking that one so thickly muscled could move with such flexibility and suppleness.
Pretty Gritty Suite was the other joy of the night. In this premiere, Rhoden has found his Revelations. Nina Simone pumped through the speakers; the dancers brandished tambourines and settled into powerful symmetrical formations. What fun to watch artists who love their craft so unapologetically!