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Complexions in Action at the Joyce

by Taylor Gordon
November 14, 2007
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
www.taylorgordononline.com
Wednesday evening's performance of Complexions at the Joyce Theater was a great overview of the work of this strong contemporary company. The mixed program included dances by Artistic Director Dwight Roden, William Forsythe, Alvin Ailey dancer Abdur-Rahim Jackson, and Nicolo Fonte. Onstage for almost 3 hours, the versatile performers in the small cast were certainly working hard, but any struggles they had were masked by strength and energy.

The evening opened with Dear Frederic, a New York premier by Rhoden. A silver curtain hung as the backdrop to 2 dancers dressed in lilac, who were soon joined by 8 others hidden behind the slow-opening drop. Broken into a number of smaller sections, the piece called for uniformity among the dancers. Many sequences were set for pairs or trios dancing in sync. While there were brief moments of discordance, as a whole it reflected Rhoden's "investigation of freedom within form" well.

With recognizable music by Chopin, it was impossible to ignore the live accompaniment by talented pianist Henry Wong Doe, whom the dancers interacted with occasionally. Though not on stage, his presence was just as critical to the performance as the technique of the dancers.

After the clarity of Dear Frederic, Act II was a remarkable melting pot of dances: some on fire, and some not so hot. A pas de deux excerpt from Forsythe's Herman Schmerman opened the act, followed by Jackon's tHe hArDeSt bUtToN to bUtToN. The latter was the only piece that didn't truly live up to the standards of the other repertoire. Belonging more in a rock concert than in concert dance, the dance was flashy and set to hard core music by The White Stripes. In fact, much of the dancing was head banging and thrashing. Dancer Christina Dooling definitely demonstrated creative abilities, but overall the dance did not keep with the tone of the evening.

Rhoden's Precious Blood followed with a more sensual tone. Far more pleasing to the eye, it was an excerpt from the PEACE Project, a suite of dances commissioned by the company, all with inspiration from interpretations of the word "peace." The Project constitutes the company's second program for the Joyce season, to be performed November 20-24. It's something to look forward to if the excerpt is any indication of what is to come.

Even better than this was Fonte's Bound, a World Premiere danced by Sabra Perry, Juan Rodriguez, and Clifford C. Williams. Slow and operatic at points, the choreography allowed the dancers to find an identity better than any of the other works.

The most touching image was its finish, with the 3 dancers spread across the very front edge of the stage. A pool of dull light on each, they held a bent leg up as if trying to balance before possibly falling off the stage. Intensely focused, they rose up, wavering and torn, before retreating into the darkness behind them as if bound by the proscenium. The light slowly faded. It was a beautiful piece that not only made demands of artistry but challenged the dancers technically as well.

Between the rock and the hard piece was Desmond Richardson, the second artistic director, in Rhoden's Lament. His solo was a treat. While all of his dancers show passion, he seems to communicate something more.

The second Act alone would have sufficed for the evening, but the final production added a great finish. It could have been hard for the overworked dancers to fight fatigue through the last number, but each one appeared to be enjoying themselves most in Pretty Gritty Suite. Set to feel-good music by Nina Simone, it was a tribute to the singer through vibrant dance. Yellow costumes, loose hair, and tambourines abounded. The liveliness was contagious and rounded out the program on a high note.

While each dance was quite different, there were 2 unifying themes of the night. The strength of the dancers shined in all choreography. In every piece it was clear that these dancers are top notch, most notably the men. The women all had nice lines, but it was the men who seemed to steal the show with their vigorous ease.

The complex lighting by Michael Korsch also united the works and drew attention. In many circumstances audiences only notice the art of lighting when it is poor and otherwise simply take it for what it is. Korsch's lighting captured the eye for its beauty. Often, overhead spotlights were used to create pools of light in various positions. This was highly effective, especially when they shifted and molded to new light patterns. In all cases it complemented the choreography well and added to the power that is Complexions.
Drew Jacoby and Juan Rodriguez of Complexions

Drew Jacoby and Juan Rodriguez of Complexions

Photo © & courtesy of Steven Vaccariello


Desmond Richardson

Desmond Richardson

Photo © & courtesy of James Houston


Desmond Richardson

Desmond Richardson

Photo © & courtesy of James Houston

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