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Flash Review 1, 1-7: On "Higher Ground" with Complexions ....And Desmond Richardson:
So Good You Want to Hate Him -- but Can't

By Tom Patrick
Copyright 2001 Tom Patrick

NEW YORK -- I'm not certain, but I think I first got a glimpse of Dwight Rhoden back in Ohio, where from the U of Cincy I would sometimes accompany my teacher (the late, great, Horton master Jimmie Truitte) to Dayton for rehearsals and performances of Jeraldyne Blunden's jewel-of-a-company, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. I loved them. That group has propelled many a strong artist out among us, and it gives me a really good feeling to have attended Saturday's matinee of Complexions at the Joyce Theater and see how well the torch is being borne forward.

Complexions is the collaborative brainchild of Mr. Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, for whom an introduction to dance insiders is almost laughably unnecessary (DR has been thrilling dance audiences worldwide for years in such distinguished company as the Ailey company, Ballet Frankfurt, and American Ballet Theatre, garnered a Tony nomination for "Fosse" on Broadway, and, and and...!) Their creation, this company Complexions, has beaten the odds for fledgling dance companies in the last decade to gain momentum and show itself charging into the twenty-first century.

The inclusion of Complexions in the Joyce's annual Altogether Different series is quite apt, and I found the company's performance to be altogether electric. As the curtain rose on the opening work, "From Me to You in About Half the Time," my hair stood on end upon seeing the liquidity of Mr. Richardson's strong arms undulating in the space around his partner, as if I were watching some kind of hybrid of man and sea anemone. Wow, shades of things to come... Garbed in [cast member] Miho Morinoue's white costumes, which flowed over their bodies like milk, eleven (of the company's dozen-and-a-half) stunning dancers showed us why Complexions will not be fading from view anytime soon. Rhoden's choreography takes them through a huge array of relational values and textures in a kaleidoscopic tour-de-force. The work is impressive on every level, exploiting the talents of Michael Korsch in the deft lighting design and resident composer Antonio Carlos Scott's surging score. (And might I add that I always appreciate how the sound system at the Joyce performs, not held back but let loose!) There is such diversity in the people, movement styles and dynamics at work that this opener trumpets Complexions' status as a true Dance company: it's pointework, floorwork, pyrotechnics and soulful gesture...not this-genre-or-that, but dance. Many movement sources are explored, and one eloquent moment of stillness caught me: as a couple ended a furious phrase to simply stand side-by-side with linked arms, a moment's truce or at least a cease-fire, and I flashed back to Lester Horton's "The Beloved." These moments fly by endlessly as the scenes change.

A premiere, titled simply "Quartet," takes Joshua Redman's jazz on a kinesthetic trip through the four personages of Mucuy Bolles, Edward Liang, Solange Sandy-Groves, and Michael Thomas. This piece is simpler in scope, and provides a little breath with which to appreciate these dancers' abilities as well as those of the prolific Mr. Rhoden. This treatment of the blues was so satisfying to me for the way they never over-danced, nor were they over-choreographed.

"Solo," to a delicate harp-accompanied song by Prince, provided a pure dose of Desmond Richardson to those of us who have seen too little thus-far-in-life. Wow, he's so good that I just want to hate him, but can't...a real miracle of articulation, but thankfully he is so human too. It is a wonderful thing, seeing a man so powerfully built yet possessing such a range of expressive textures.

In the second half of the concert, I was particularly enamored of "Higher Ground," which springboards from the irresistible Earth Wind & Fire classics that comprise the score. Again the movement "style" is an aggregate of many influences from social dancing through ballet and beyond, but the overriding glaze is one of speed and ease, topped-off by the huge pleasure of the performers enjoying themselves, each other, and the act itself of dancing for us. There is an intricate interplay between the dancers revealing the joys and efforts of relating in this, our modern world. They all move with astonishing power and fluidity as the situation dictates, and by-the-way are sculpturally gorgeous specimens, sexy and hunky...I mean very!

There is almost too much going on onstage for me to pick out nuggets from the sum of things, but fine dance -- like a fine meal -- might just have to be that way, savored at the moment and living on in us as an undeniably rich experience. I loved the concert by Complexions, circa 2002, and I'll see them again. I suggest you try it as well! (Good luck with the tickets...Complexions's last concert in this Altogether Different run is tomorrow night, at 8 pm, the Joyce is at -- of course -- 8th Ave & 19th Street...for more info visit the Joyce web site...enjoy!)

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