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Since their inaugural performance in 1994, Complexions Contemporary Ballet has successfully delivered outstanding dancers and exciting choreography. Artistic director (and Ailey alum) Dwight Rhoden chooses dancers who are virtuosic, detail-oriented, and classically trained, with mobile spines and well-sculpted bodies. But like having that extra slice of pizza when you know you’ve already had too much, Rhoden’s choreography sometimes veers toward excessive and licentious.
In its Philadelphia premiere, Ballad Unto . . . was truly Rhoden, with nuanced solos, intricate duets, and harmonious group section performed with effortless control at dizzying speed. Set to music by Bach, the seven couples ignited the stage with turns, tilts, and the all-too-familiar contemporary slide, performed in true Complexions style.
In Solo, Terk Lewis Waters was hypnotic. Tall and statuesque, he commanded the stage as he carved through space, displaying his skill with precision and adeptness. Everything I’ve seen from the male presence that swims in the repertoire of the company lives in the physicality of Waters.
The duo of Doug Baum and Addison Ector electrified the stage in the world premiere Choke. Lending leggy battements, well-placed stillness, and welcomed off-center balances to the otherwise speedy choreography, Ector and Baum hovered over the soaring composition of the “Summer” section of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons before settling into an arabesque as the lights faded to black.
Neither special nor new
The world premiere, Strum, was neither special nor new. A group piece set to music by Metallica, Strum had subtle similarities to the company’s Rise from earlier years with its rock sensibility and an aesthetic that bordered on commercial and cliché.
I left the theater thrilled at having the chance to share a night of dance with dancers who slaughtered every step given to them with a ferocity that at times forced me to pull back in my seat. I also experienced disappointment that the show provided few surprises in its use of well-worn vocabulary.
The departure of founding artistic director Desmond Richardson brings welcome changes: The company, saturated with new, young blood, has the chance to move out of Richardson’s shadow and shine in their own glory.
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