Contemporary ballet

Complexions Contemporary Ballet came to Dallas with Bowie and Bach

New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet came to Dallas through TITAS, performing a simple two-part program at Moody Performance Hall. But what were these two parts.

In their 25and anniversary season, the highly acclaimed company that has performed in Dallas before and will return in May for TITAS’ season finale gala has proven its place as cutting-edge, supremely cohesive dance makers.

You’ve never seen ballet quite like this, leaning so aggressively towards the contemporary. And with a richly diverse company, Complexions can’t help but look like the ballet company of the future. Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden, former dancers of Alvin Ailey, have developed a style that is fast and physically demanding, but full of imagination.

For Bach 25, which premiered earlier this year on the West Coast, the baroque composer’s characteristic continuous movement idea is taken up with breathtaking brilliance. Set to Bach’s music, the work features the entire company in various dynamic combinations for 25 almost uninterrupted minutes. The piece opens like a stripping down and a reconstruction of classical dance. The stage is filled with the raw look of a company in skin-tight shorts and flesh-colored leotards, their bodies more edgy and muscular than fabric. They are not ballerinas twirling in a jeweled music box; and yet the movements are all turns and points, long lines and arabesques. Under lighting that is at once revealing, concealing and highlighting angles and shadows, they move in a way that seems the epitome of classical dance, and yet circumvents it: in a partner diad, the dancer holds the foot lifted from his partner, forming a compass, brushing her at the height of a press like a metronome. The women, too, grab their feet, refusing to abide by the rules. The extensions are breathtaking. One would think it would be impossible to add to Bach; I would say this piece does.

Stardust, a nine-part tribute to David Bowie, is an ambitious work created in 2016. Complexions founder and choreographer Dwight Rhoden confessed that he wanted to be Bowie when he was growing up. And so, we have this extraordinary tribute, brimming with energy, full of pathos and charisma, capturing Bowie’s chameleon quality. The lighting and costumes evoke a glam rock trope for the sequin-covered dancers, who push aside the gold curtains to strut across the stage. For each piece, a central member of the company synchronized the role of Bowie. And although this pastiche may seem difficult to understand at first glance, it is captivating. The boundaries between performance modes are blurring; expressiveness and technique mingle. The efficiency of ballet movement and form is exploited for the spacer, the swagger. In “Space Oddity,” a male soloist struts across the stage cutting edge, an exquisite long-legged gesture towards fantasy and imagination. And the piece, as a whole, brilliantly uses size and height in combinations that are infectious in their energy and extremely technical. In many ways, proof that classically trained dancers can do it all.

The evening full of giants and greats marked the last performance of 2018, before TITAS resumed in February with Dorrance Dance.