From Bach to Bowie
Posted on 02/02/2020
Complexions Contemporary Ballet is coming to State Theatre New Jersey on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 8pm. They will be performing the program, Bach to Bowie, featuring two of their signature pieces. The program includes Bach 25, an exploration of love and alliances, featuring music by Johann Sebastian Bach; and StarDust, an “utterly transfixing” (Billboard) dance tribute to the life and music of Bowie.
Back in 1994, two former members of Alvin Ailey, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, founded Complexions to create a unique place for dancers to learn and grow. After 25 years, Complexions Contemporary Ballet is one of the most established dance companies in the United States due to the authenticity of the pieces they create. The traveling company consists of 15 male and female dancers that use movement to break boundaries; the main goal of Complexions is to create and inspire diversity, something they know how to do very well.
The most obvious case of diversity found in Complexions is the gender and ethnicity of the company. Out of the 15 dancers on tour, eight are men and seven are women; as close to a 50/50 split of 15 as you can get. The company consists of dancers that were born in five different countries on four different continents; 11 from the U.S. and one from Canada, Australia, Japan, and Colombia. Since there are so many different countries represented among the 15 dancers, each member has a slightly different background of training that they can bring to the company.
Every dancer on the Complexions tour has a unique evolution of their dance life, but the one thing they have in common is their passion for dance. Even though multiple dancers have only ever been trained in classical ballet, the cultural and stylistic differences in ballet training across the world varies. For example, there are six different “methods” of ballet that exist, and each one has a slightly different focus. The Cecchetti method focuses on working all parts of the body evenly by creating a planned routine for each day of training. Dancers that follow this method have a strict training schedule and they cannot finish a day unless they complete the day’s agenda. Another common method of ballet is the Balanchine method which focuses on very quick movements that are complemented by a more fluid use of the upper body. The Balanchine method is most famous for its instruction in New York, while the Cecchetti method was created in France, but has now become globalized. Combining all six ballet methods helps Complexions to create a new and unique style.
While some of the dancers have only ever been trained in classical ballet, others started out as competition or commercial dancers, and later decided to switch their focus to ballet. Luckily for the talented group of dancers, their two choreographers embody diversity. Richardson was not only the first African-American principal dancer of American Ballet Theater; he has performed with many Broadway shows, and made his Broadway singing debut in The Look of Love. Richardson’s dance and vocal background give him a unique understanding of music that shows in his choreography. Rhoden completed most of his training with Alvin Ailey Dance Company, and has choreographed for international ballet companies and television shows including So You Think You Can Dance. Together, their different dance backgrounds create a unique vocabulary of movement for the company.
In an interview with Pointe Magazine, co-founder of Complexions, Rhoden explains how he wants the “company to be representative of what the country looks like now” and it’s “important that dance not only incorporates a range of ethnicities, but cultures, genres of music, and dance styles.” See the thrilling and beautiful Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Bach to Bowie at State Theatre New Jersey on Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 8pm.
By Jenna Goggin