8/18/17 (Repost) O&A NYC Shall We Dance Friday: Desmond Richardson- Lament and Encore Performance Precious Blood with Carmen de Lavallade

Shall We DanceDesmondRichardson022110

Desmond Richardson is a dancer, co-founder and co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. He has mastered a wide range of dance forms including classical, modern, contemporary ballet and jazz making him one of the most recognized performers of his generation. Continue reading

3/6/17 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Complexions Contemporary Ballet Harkens Back To The 80’s

By Walter Rutledge

Complexions Contemporary Ballet presented their 22nd New York City season at the Joyce Theater January 24 through February 5, 2017. The Program A consisted of a world premiere Gutter Glitter, and a New York premiere Star Dust. Both works offered a look into the evolution of the company and resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden.

The seventeen-member ensemble danced with a prowess and aplomb on par with world-class dance companies. Moving effortlessly through Rhoden’s non-stop choreography, with its now signature undulating torsos and generous extensions. Although Gutter Glitter and Star Dust were new works the overall stylistic presentation harkened back to the 1980’s. In particular the company reminisced elements of Maurice Bejart’s Ballet du XXe Siècle.

Rhoden’s incorporation of homoerotic elements was evident throughout. The male dancers were the centerpiece of the company and the array of body types are as deliciously varied as a Valentine’s Day sampler box of chocolates. Both dance works used the men as the central figure(s), and to Rhoden’s credit he has found a way to direct this energy at the audience. The imagery created in these works form a sublimal erotic conversation with the audience, which at times feels voyeuristic in nature. What is even more noteworthy is he completes this feat without overt or literal same sex interaction.

The most striking 80’s esthetic throwback is his use of sexual ambiguity in his stylistic and movement choices. A perfect example is one of his signature movements (a supported a la second allonge’ then ronde de jambe the leg to parallel six position a terre); Rhoden powerfully opens the body then closes it back to center visually creating passive and vulnerable imagery. This movement is one of many indiscriminately executed by the both the male and female dancers creating unison or “mono-sex” imagery.

Rhoden has body type preferences. Many of the men are slender in build with a subtle, at times subdued persona, while the female performers attack with an almost Amazonian fervor. All the performers have long supple legs with contortion-like stretch and high extensions; this helps to blur the gender lines and traditional roles.

Rhoden’s Gutter Glitter is a collection of abstract vignettes that produced a work more episodic than thematic. This gave the dance a design anchor, which allowed the audience to create their own storyline from the imagery. Structurally the work showed signs of exploration and growth as Rhoden ventured away from his predictable linear patterns and elemental symmetry. In particular, his use of diagonal groupings framed the foreground action in a fresh and uncluttered way.

There is a great deal of partnering in both works, but the mood of most of the duets was more combative than perfervid. Dancers dispassionately executed supported pirouettes (in ballet slippers) and intricate promenades, then the male partner relinquishes authority and becomes the submissive. This made the movement conversations feel more Carrie Bradshaw and Stanford Blatch (Sex In The City) than Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights).

In the middle of the work the female ensemble returned en pointe; which did not compliment the dancers or the choreography. Dancers valiantly barreled through pique ́ turns, and performed echappe ́and similar intermediate level steps with tentative classroom energy. The men had difficulty keeping their partners on her leg in the pirouettes and promenades, which made the section even more perilous.

The one exception was the duet featuring Kelly March III and Young-Sil Kim. March III danced with a spirited bravura breezing Kim through multiple pirouettes and offering steadfast support throughout. Their assured performance exuded an excitement and unforced charisma and generated the evening’s only traditionally gender specific sensuality.

Star Dust, a tribute to the late music icon David Bowie, uses music from Bowie’s glam period- the epitome of sexual ambiguity. Each section had a different Bowie leading man, who distinguished himself from the cast by lip-syncing the lyrics. Theatrical, with rock star flare, glam era war paint and disco era mirror balls, each Bowie interpreted a different side of the artist through this music.

Rhoden can be choreographic verbose, and in the past has not always capitalized on his dances natural ebb and flow. Here the length and content of the Bowie music helped him create a focused and more concise dance work. Again Rhoden drew on new sources to expand his choreographic lexicon.

In the past when staging ensemble sections Rhoden has relied on several choreographic patterns and devices, and two have become parts of his choreographic signature. He likes placing the dancers in three linear rows with the first and third rows moving in counterpoint to the second; or five couples, one center and the other four on the up and down stage quarter, which evolves into five different duets performed simultaneously. These groupings create energy, but do not always maintain a consistent visual focal point that clearly delineates primary, secondary, foreground and background action for the audience.

Although these devices appeared in both works Rhoden deviated from his comfort zone in Star Dust by introducing new movement patterns and groupings. When the group lifts Turk Waters with rock star adoration the change in level strongly communicates Rhoden’s intent. Star Dust show off Rhoden’s lighter and more entertaining side and the forty-minute work-in-progress is off to a good start.


7/28/15 O&A REVIEW: The 2015 Fire Island Dance Festival

By Walter Rutledge


The Fire Island Dance Festival 2015 took place July 17- 19 in Fire Island Pines. The three-day dance event has become Fire Island’s premiere summer dance showcase; spotlighting the talents of new, emerging and established choreographers, dancers and dance companies. This year the festival presented ten works by nine choreographers, and featuring forty-three performing artists.

Due to the high level of artistry and the picturesque setting (overlooking the bay) the entertainment element is the festival’s focal point; but the purpose and mission should always be reinforced and reiterated at every opportunity. The Fire Island Dance Festival is the successful result of two communities that have been greatly impacted by HIV/AIDS coming together to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. Dancer Responding To AIDS (DRA) was founded in 1991 during the bleakest days for the AIDS pandemic.

The Fire Island Dance Festival achieves its goal through the very essence of the art form- by sharing. The response and generosity of the dance and Fire Island communities has allowed DRA to surpass the previous year’s financial accomplishments. This year the festival raised $544,555 that will assist in their year round support for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Due to the freelance nature of the “no business like show business”, many artists living with HIV/AIDS lack adequate health services, emergency financial assistance and contingency funds, lifesaving medications, counseling, healthy meals, and vital support systems. Through various programs including The Actors Fund, the HIV/AIDS Initiative and The Dancers’ Resource, artists and the community at large receive assistance.


Festival host Desmond Richardson is quickly becoming dance’s eloquent elder statesmen. Richardson (who participated in the very first festival) is also co-founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; and along with Artistic Director Dwight Rhoden remain a staple throughout the festival’s 21-year history. This year Rhoden offered a solo set two Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, and performed by his present muse Clifford Williams. Williams gave an articulate and impassioned performance.

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The ten works ranged from lighthearted dance theatre to ballet bravura, which epitomized the range, scope and inclusiveness of the event and the mission. Choreographers: Joshua Beamish, Al Blackstone, Pontus Lidberg, Duncan Lyle, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Stephen Petronio, Jules Perrot, Dwight Rhoden, Manuel Vignoulle, and Charlie Williams.

Dance Companies: Ailey II, Ballet Hispanico, Intermezzo Dance Company, Joshua Beamish/Move: the company, Manuel Vignoulle Dance– M/motions, and Pontus Lidberg Dance.

And dancers: Paulo Arrais, Alex Biegelson, Biscuit, Shay Bland, Christopher Bloom, Mary Carmen Catoya, Chloe Cambelll, Marc Cardarelli, Mario Ismael Espinoza, Mark Gieringer, Jacob Guzman, Christopher Hernandez, Jakob Karr, Justin Keats, Dimitri Kleioris, Lindsay Janisse, Adrian Lee, Pontus Lidberg, Kourtni Lind, Reed Luplau, Chase Madigan, Raymond Matasamura, Johan Rivera Mendez, Adam Perry, Karine Plantadit, Kleber Rebello, Isaies Santamaria, Logan Schyvynck, Nicholas Sciscione, Corey Snide, Terrell Spence, Manuel Vignoulle Clifford Williams, Stephanie Williams, and Joshua Winzeler should all be commended for donating their time and sharing their artistry.  

The Fire Island Dance Festival is a once a year event that take place on the third Saturday of July, but the services provided by Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS are year round. DRA supports more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states.To find out more about the programs and service provide or to make a donation visit dradance.org.

1) 2015 Fire Island Dance Festival 2) Desmond Richardson

Daniel Roberts Photographer

On Carousel  1) Pontus Lidberg Dance 2) Mary Carmen Catoya and Kleber Rebello 3) Manuel  Vignoulle Dance M/motions 4) Joshua Beamish/Move: the company 5) Charlie Williams 6) Ballet Hispanico 7) Al Blackstone 8) Ailey II 9) 10 Hairy Legs

Whitney Browne Photographer


3/13/15 O&A Dance: Ailey II Begins New York Season at the Joyce Season March 17

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If you had planned on seeing the annual New York City season of Ailey II, March 17  through 22 at the Joyce Theater don’t walk to get your tickets- run! The company’s  first  independent season at the Joyce has caught fire and the season could be sold out prior to opening night. “We couldn’t be more excited to present our first full season at The Joyce Theater,” says Ailey II Artistic Director Troy Powell. Continue reading

11/25/14 O&A Dance: Complexion Contemporary Ballet …In The Beginning (Part 3) An Interview With Christina Johnson

By Walter Rutledge


As Complexions Contemporary Ballet begins the second week of their two-week season tonight at the Joyce Theater we continue our conversation with Christina Johnson. The season commemorates the 20th anniversary of the company, Out and About NYC Magazine looks back through the eyes of artists who there at the beginning. Continue reading

11/21/14 O&A Shall We Dance Friday: Review- Complexions Contemporary Ballet Gala

By Walter Rutledge


Complexions Contemporary Ballet held their 20th anniversary gala performance Thursday, November 20 at the Joyce Theater. I believe galas should not be held under the same critical scrutiny as a regular season performance; these events have a different focus. Galas acknowledge company milestones such as dancers transitioning, directors passing the torch, season openings and in this case celebrating the company’s 20th anniversary. Continue reading

11/20/14 O&A Dance: Complexions Contemporary Ballet Celebrates 20 Years (Part Two)- Christina Johnson Interview On Restaging Ave Maria


O&A NYC video interview with Original Complexions Contemporary Ballet member Christina Johnson on restaging Dwight Rhoden’s duet Ave Maria. The duet was originally choreographed on Johnson and Donald Williams in 1995. American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland and Complexions Contemporary Ballet Artist in Residence, Clifford Williams will perform the work at the Thursday, November 20 Gala performance.  10392506_10152549376453892_4574420590891863747_n Continue reading

11/18/14 O&A Dance: Complexions Contemporary Ballet Celebrates 20 Years (Part One)

Complexions Contemporary Ballet begins a two-week season tonight at the Joyce Theater. The season commemorates the 20th anniversary of the company. This week Out and About NYC Magazine would like to take a look back through the eyes of artists who there at the beginning.

By Aubrey Lynch II unnamed

Founder and Artistic Director, Aubrey Lynch Extra Essential Arts, ALEEArts

Desmond Richardson and I have been best friends since he was about 15. We all knew even back then that he would be a star. When Desmond, Dwight and I were in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater together doing Alvin Ailey’s Sinner Man all over the world, we became very close, sharing our dreams and the other art forms that interested us. Continue reading

8/18/17 (Repost) O&A NYC Shall We Dance Friday: Desmond Richardson- Lament and Encore Performance Precious Blood with Carmen de Lavallade

Shall We Dance


Desmond Richardson is a dancer, co-founder and co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. He has mastered a wide range of dance forms including classical, modern, contemporary ballet and jazz making him one of the most recognized performers of his generation. Continue reading