Complexions Contemporary Ballet Breaks Boundaries and Pays Homage to Rock Legend David Bowie
By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, January 27, 2017
Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s 2017 season debuts at the Joyce Theatre with their world premiere of Gutter Glitter and New York premiere of Star Dust – A Ballet Tribute to David Bowie. These two distinctive works are sure to delight and captivate. The premise behind Gutter Glitter was to create an abstract landscape of contrasting ideas, juxtaposing stories, characters and creating environments that are diverse in origin – breaking traditional barriers found in ballet and achieving a modern twist that leaves itself open for interpretation by the audience.
Dwight Rhoden’s (founding Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of Complexions Dance Company) first installment of the collage series Gutter Glitter, an assortment of dance numbers combined with a medley of music genres, has everything from electronica to contemporary Hip-Hop to soulful exotic beats—with auto-tune infused songs in between—as the backdrop to the exceptional movements performed by the dancers. The concept of intertwining modern ballet with ‘of-the-moment’ music is intriguing and ambitious, but the execution could have been more finessed to create a cohesive whole that might have established a continuity in the performance. Neither the costumes nor the set pieces enhanced the tone, or aided in the visual narrative. Perhaps if they had they done so, the collection of pieces may have been more powerful.
In the second half, Stardust woke the senses, and the whole audience as well. The performance begins with rotating white lights coming from the stage as if inside a disco ball peering out. Instantly you’re engulfed with the sound of David Bowie’s dynamic voice and the music of one of his popular songs, “Lazarus.” The dancers’ attire accurately pays homage to David Bowie’s gender-bending fashion throughout his career, outfitted in colorful costumes, as well as psychedelic hair and makeup. Large, shiny gold streamers fill the background completing the look. The audience is immediately transported to the first time they may have heard these songs and how they may have felt.
The other dances to David Bowie’s songs are noteworthy as well. The company’s performance of “Heroes” with an acoustic rendition was stupendous. There was a designated dancer for each song “stepping out of character” and coming to the foreground lip-syncing the words creating a real electricity; Bowie’s influence was evident. When “Space Oddity” was performed, the dancers inhabited the gender-neutral characters that speak to David Bowie’s rock persona; the swagger, confidence and individuality the late singer embodied. This is a performance definitely worth seeing.
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Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce Theatre on January 24, 2017. Performances continue through February 5, 2017. Dwight Rhoden, Founding Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer.
Gutter Glitter; Choreography by Dwight Rhoden; music by Various Electronica; staged by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson; costume design and construction by Christine Darch; lighting and set design by Michael Korsch. Dancers/Full Company: Doug Baum, Jennie Begley, Greg Blackmon, Andrew Brader, Jillian Davis, Maria Gerasimou, Larissa Gerzske, Shanna Irwin, Kylie Jefferson, Youngsil Kim, Kelly Marsh, Anthony Savoy, Tim Stickney, and Tercell Waters.
SO NOT A… (An epilogue to GUTTER GLITTER); Choreography by Dwight Rhoden; music by George Frideric Handel; lighting and set design by Michael Korsch; costume design by Christine Darch. Dancers: the company.
Stardust – A Ballet Tribute to David Bowie; Choreography by Dwight Rhoden; music by David Bowie; staged by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson; costume design and construction by Christine Darch; lighting and set design by Michael Korsch; Dancers: the company.
Cover: Complexions Contemporary Ballet in ‘Gutter Glitter;’ photo: Moira Geist