Complexions Contemporary Ballet

November 17, 2009

Complexions Contemporary Ballet
The Joyce Theater, NYC

November 17–29, 2009

Reviewed by Christopher Atamian


Mercy. Photo by Lee Talner, Courtesy Complexions.

Dwight Rhoden certainly knows how to jazz up a crowd. His entertaining, quick-paced compositions possess a remarkable kinetic energy, like souped-up Broadway numbers danced at blitzkrieg speed. If that’s all you expect from dance, then Complexions’ November 29 performance of Program B (the last in a 15th anniversary season called “Love, Sweat, and Tears”) would have left you cheering in your seat. If you were hoping for more subtlety or choreographic refinement, then you probably would have left the theater somewhat disappointed by all the superbly performed razzmatazz.

In Act I Rhoden presented an excerpt from Mercy, a new group ballet dedicated to Patrick Swayze and set to music by Phil Kline, Michael Murray, Steve Reich, Mendelssohn, and Hans Zimmer. The dancers writhed, squatted, jumped, kneeled, and assumed every conceivable variation of a prayer position known to mankind. A set of buckets also made a mysterious appearance at one point: The performers danced around them, picked them up, and even stuck their faces in and out of them repeatedly. The dramatic, soulful score sometimes descended into the merely loud and pompous, especially in the very Sturm und Drang organ sections.

Act II opened with Mirror Me (2009), choreographed by company member Juan Rodriguez and set to cellist Zoe Keating’s “Fern.” However pleasant, this trio—danced by Patricia Hachey, Natalia Alonso, and Simon Sliva—failed to present “the many facets of ourselves” described in the program notes. An excerpt from Rhoden’s new Dirty Wire followed, set to an original rock-influenced score by David Rozenblatt. While the piece is nominally about relationships, this short sampling, performed by Edgar Anido and Christie Partelow, offered little beyond stock phrasings.

The “blank space” at the inception of a creative process served as inspiration for Jae Man Joo’s new work, Atmosphere. The music—a varied sampling of Bach—somewhat overwhelmed the otherwise simple and elegant choreography.

Rhoden’s explosive Rise (2008), set to assorted songs by U2, ended the program on an exciting note, the dancers excellent even when they simply ran in place in red shirts and tight undergarments. The audience erupted at the end of the piece and stood for a seemingly endless ovation. Rise doesn’t have much emotional depth, and it doesn’t tell any discernible story, but no one seemed to mind.