Take a break and enjoy ten minutes of dance by watching Complexions Contemporary Ballet world premier of “Gather Round,” presented by Laguna Dance Festival and Artistic Director Jodie Gates.  Director and choreographer Dwight Rhoden and co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson bring “Rockabilly to Ballet” by using the music of Gammy winning composer, upright bass player and singer, Lee Rocker of Stray Cats fame. “Gather Round” the just released album by Rocker is reminiscent in every way of the Brian Setzer style.

Rhoden’s intention of mixing the energetic swinging, jive tempo of the music with the discipline of ballet is a good idea that does not always succeed. The technically excellent dancers are Larissa Gerszke and Brandon Gray. Both come from strongly disciplined ballet and modern dance backgrounds, which is evident in their every move. This however is the very thing that holds them back as the music calls out for abandonment and the freedom to “just dance.” Gray is more successful in bringing lightness to his role and having some fun.  Gerszke though beautiful to look at seems less capable of trusting her technique, and her dancing feels somewhat stilted.  Achieving perfect line is admirable but not in sacrifice of the dance.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet - "Gather Round" - Larissa Gerszke and Brandon Gray - Photo by Katie Mollison

Complexions Contemporary Ballet – “Gather Round” – Larissa Gerszke and Brandon Gray – Photo by Katie Mollison

Rhoden is onto something with this juxtaposition of styles yet he too frequently misses the mark when it comes to finding the rhythm and exuberance that composer Lee Rocker brings to the table.  While the ballet choreography is perfectly fine it is not new or particularly innovative.  There are some lively ideas in his nod to western swing and musical theater but more of this character work would have been welcome.

In the future I am hoping Rhoden will bring up the energy, let go of all restraints and go a little crazy.  Still, I admire the ambition and found this to be a light-hearted break in an otherwise ordinary day.

Costumes by Christine Darch did not acknowledge the theme of the music and lacked movement, which would have brought another dimension to the dance.  The apt filming and editing was by Jacob Hiss.

To view streaming on Vimeo click HERE.

To visit the Complexions Contemporary Ballet website, click HERE.

To visit the Laguna Dance Festival, click HERE.

Written by Tam Warner for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: Complexions Contemporary Ballet – “Gather Round” – Larissa Gerszke and Brandon Gray – Photo by Katie Mollison