It’s a mesmerizing experience to sit in the audience and watch the agility of a dancer’s body and the pure elation on their face as they take flight, be it in the expanse of a jete, the height of a lift or the poise of a final pose.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet embraced just that. They have been mixing styles, traditions and bending the rules of dance for over 15 years since they were founded in 1994 by Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden who both have fleshed-out their experience having worked with companies from as Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theatre, and New York City Ballet through to working with artists including Michael Jackson, Prince and Madonna.
Complexions utilize an array of music from classical to jazz to pop/rock with choreography that pushes the boundaries of classical ballet and generates a uniqueness that would appeal to a more diverse audience than the usual ballet crowd.
These dancers are strong, sculpted and supple all with the foundations of disciplined classical training but with a great sense of risk and of course that New York sense of ‘cool’. Especially cool was stand-out dancer and artistic director/co-founder, Desmond Richardson when in the second act we witness his incredible body, technique, attack and audience appeal in a solo piece.
Being a small company of 16 dancers, this requires an element of resting time for recovery so there are in fact 3 acts split up by 2 breaks which leads to a fairly lengthy night or at least it feels lengthy.
Act 1 reminds me aesthetically of some of Balanchine’s work with music by Rachmaninov, the dancers wear what almost seems to be ‘class’ attire: ballet buns, leotards, black tights and pointe shoes. This work has lots of choreography on stage all at once for example a solo to one side, a trio up the back, a duo down the front and so on. Formations are constantly moving and changing, which was somewhat distracting, however the most alarming aspect of this piece was the lack of timing from the dancers during group work. The dancers were all dancing as individuals, not as a group. I kept asking myself, why aren’t they watching each other? For a company of this stature I was quite shocked. However their technique was so impeccable I let it slide this time.
Act 2 really kicked off, there was some really unique work displayed. There was an enjoyable, funky piece with 3 guys topless (nice) in jeans accompanied by girls on pointe in red dresses, I liked this piece, it was cheeky and technically tight.
Act 3 really lifted the energy with all the work being performed to U2 songs. This was an absolute delight to watch and the timing had cleared up significantly by then! The dancers were in their absolute element by this stage and as true professionals do, maintained strength and gravitas till the last bow, of which there was quite a few!
I really enjoyed the collection of works Complexions presented. A few months ago I saw ‘Rock the Ballet’ similarly by a small New York company, however I thought Complexions were superior to the aforementioned in terms of technique, ability and choreographic work.
I highly recommend this to anyone who loves classical ballet and contemporary. You should get along to this!
Emma Bell is a writer, reviewer and interviewer and can be found at