Ballet dancers are some of the most physically fit people in the world. Their stamina rivals the toughest athletes, and, in addition, they must entertain artistically. There are different styles of shows from conveying a story line, abstract linear movement or personality inspired presentation. George Balanchine created neo classical ballets that highlighted the body, while musical theater dance is story based and act out toward the audience. It is interesting to see a combination of methods merged in a ballet as Complexions Contemporary Ballet highlighted these concepts at The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills on Thursday, April 14th, 2022. The Los Angeles premier of Snatched Back From The Edges and the David Bowie inspired ballet Stardust proved that an assortment of all types of choreographic do’s and do not’s can still make a creative, meaningful and entertaining performance.

This world has become a bit chaotic with wars, a worldwide pandemic, personal struggles, racial tension, and gun violence, and we battle to find meaning and hope. Principal choreographer and founding co- artistic director Dwight Rhoden generated a profound show with Snatched Back From The Edges, that excellently presented the world in which we struggle to find our way. A very deep and moving piece that projected the way many of us feel. Lighted silhouettes have been used effectively in dance such as European Danish ballet director Harald Lander’s Etudes or Broadway musical dynamo Bob Fosse’s Chicago. Mr. Rhoden also makes great use of shadows and figures, while displaying his company’s talent. All associated with the lighting aspect of this work did a tremendous job including resident Lighting Designer Michael Korsch. Dwight Rhoden’s ensemble combinations are impressive while using challenging group partnering sections. The dancers are pushed to their limits with high energy continuations including voguing style arm positions.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Dwight Rhoden's "Snatched Back From The Edges" - Thomas Dilley with the company - Photo by Kevin Parry

Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Dwight Rhoden’s “Snatched Back From The Edges” – Thomas Dilley with the company – Photo by Kevin Parry

The entire company gets a chance to shine but there were several stand out moments. Jillian Davis is hard to miss at 6’2”, she is a force of fabulousness with her diva stare. There were partnering sections with her that were a bit uncomfortable and seemed difficult for her partner, however sections with her and two men came across seamlessly. Tatiana Melendez is a technical titan with an extraordinary use of neck and head fluidity. Her partnering and responsiveness abilities are a powerful mixture. Ms. Melendez is solid through the entire production. Thomas Dilley was another reliable performer all the way through. He has an undeniable brilliant stage presence. Mr. Dilley’s extensions and agility were smooth and clean, while entertaining the crowd. There is such a variety of body types and personalities and when Mr. Rhoden put all women, or all men grouped together it was vividly commanding. The music made the ballet, Dwight’s choice compilation of soulful song and spoken word was mightily influential.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet - (L-R) April Watson, Jacapo Calvo, and Zion Pradier in Dwight Rhoden's "Snatched Back From The Edges" - Photo by Kevin Parry

Complexions Contemporary Ballet – (L-R) April Watson, Jacapo Calvo, and Zion Pradier in Dwight Rhoden’s “Snatched Back From The Edges” – Photo by Kevin Parry

Music Credits for Snatched Back From The Edges include Martin Gore, Sanada Maitreya, Shirley Caesar, Terrell Lewis, Tye Tribbett, Jon Batiste, Frederic Chopin, Aloe Blacc, and Benjamin Clementine.

“StarDust” by Dwight Rhoden – Complexions Contemporary Ballet – Photo courtesy of Hagos Rush

A fan favorite is Stardust which contains the music of famed rock star David Bowie originally debuted in 2016. In this creation, Dwight Rhoden allows one dancer in each section to lip-sync David Bowie’s singing. In the ballet and dance world this is typically not allowed and frowned upon. Mr. Rhoden, however, bravely injects it into the entire foundation of the piece. It works if you go along for the Rhoden ride. Costume designer Christine Darch is spot on with exuding a David Bowie ambiance. The men in platform shoes are fun and fantastic and Brandon Gray does a luminous opening scene. At first, in Lazarus, the vibe was as though one were watching a live music video. Then with David Bowie face make-up, the audience saw more smiles from the company and the work felt more like a musical. Mr. Rhoden took it up a notch during Space Oddity when Serafin Castro performs in pointe shoes. Mr. Castro is the personification of David Bowie and a highlight of retro awesomeness.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet - "Stardust" by Dwight Rhoden - Featured dancer Thomas Dilley - Photo by Kevin Perry

Complexions Contemporary Ballet – “Stardust” by Dwight Rhoden – Featured dancer Thomas Dilley – Photo by Kevin Perry

This company incorporates popular movements with contemporary styles and methods. It is nice to see how Mr. Rhoden takes risks and challenges the participants in his works. The dancers are all in top form and the company incorporates popular and unique segments. Finishing with Stardust left the audience uplifted and happy, and the Complexions Contemporary Ballet Company received a rousing standing ovation. Both company directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson took their bows on stage among their dancers. The Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts unique stage offers an intimate venue and after viewing the show you felt as though you knew each performer.

To learn more about Complexions Contemporary Ballet, please visit their website.

To see The Wallis’s entire performance season, please visit their website.

Written by Alice Alyse for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Stardust Choreographed by Dwight Rhoden – Brandon Grey (center ) and (l-r) Simon Plant, Jacopo Calvo, Miguel Solano, Tim Stickney – Photo by Kevin Parry

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