Contemporary ballet

Dyed Contemporary Ballet

Dyed Contemporary Ballet
The Joyce Theatre, New York

November 17 to 29, 2009

Reviewed by Christopher Atamian

by Rhoden
Pity. Photo by Lee Talner, courtesy of Complexions.

Dwight Rhoden certainly knows how to cheer up a crowd. His entertaining, fast-paced compositions possess remarkable kinetic energy, like pumped-up Broadway numbers danced at lightning speed. If that’s all you want from dancing, then Complexions’ B-program performance on November 29 (the last of a 15th anniversary season titled “Love, Sweat, and Tears”) would have left you clapping at your square. If you were hoping for more subtlety or choreographic refinement, then you’d probably have walked out of the theater somewhat disappointed with all the superbly performed razzmatazz.

In Act I, Rhoden presented an excerpt from Pity, a new collective ballet dedicated to Patrick Swayze and set to music by Phil Kline, Michael Murray, Steve Reich, Mendelssohn and Hans Zimmer. The dancers twisted, squatted, jumped, kneeled, and assumed every conceivable variation of a prayer position known to mankind. A set of buckets also made a mysterious appearance at one point: the performers danced around them, picked them up, and even stuck their faces in and out repeatedly. The dramatic and moving score descended at times into the simply loud and bombastic sound, especially in the very Sturm und Drang organ sections.

Act II opens with reflect me (2009), choreographed by company member Juan Rodriguez and to “Fern” by cellist Zoe Keating. Pleasant as it is, this trio – danced by Patricia Hachey, Natalia Alonso and Simon Sliva – failed to present “the many facets of ourselves” described in the program notes. An excerpt from Rhoden’s short story dirty wire followed, to an original rock-influenced score by David Rozenblatt. While the piece is theoretically about relationships, this short sampling, performed by Edgar Anido and Christie Partelow, offered little beyond common phrasing.

“Empty Space” at the start of a creative process served as inspiration for Jae Man Joo’s new work, Atmosphere. The music – a varied sample of Bach – somewhat surpassed the otherwise simple and elegant choreography.

Rhoden’s explosive To get up (2008), to matching U2 songs, ended the program on an exciting note, the dancers excelling even when they were just running in place in red shirts and tight underwear. The audience erupted at the end of the play and stood for a seemingly endless ovation. To get up doesn’t have much emotional depth and doesn’t tell any discernible story, but no one seemed to care.