Normally, Thanksgiving does not include New York’s lower east side, sharing a bowl of Vietnamese noodles with just my younger sis and an absence of rowdy children. I found myself this year, celebrating in the most non-traditional of ways. I travelled from my home in Atlanta to the bustle of the Big Apple. Luckily, this unusual holiday also included a wonderful contemporary ballet company at the Joyce Theater. Complexions were worth the plane, train and automobile it took to see.
Under the artistic direction of Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, this company is a multicultural dance ensemble that blurs the lines between point shoes and bare feet. The dancers wear the classical shoes and have long lean, muscular bodies. Rhoden is a modern artist. He utilizes unmistakable ballet training, then tilts, twists, wrings it out, and breaks it apart to create high energy work. His choreography is unexpected. Like an oyster, it’s edgy and refined at the same time. The work maintains a legginess from the ballet genre but you never know where those legs are going.
With a name like Complexions, the skin is an essential costuming device. For example, in Hissy Fits the dancers wore very small nude shorts and some had tank tops, all of which accentuated the skin tones of the performers and added an intense dimension to the visual experience. It also allows the viewers to see every line, plié, battement, wiggle and curve.
Throughout the run at the Joyce, the company provided 3 different programs which is an extraordinary body of work. I had the privilege of seeing program B and wish I could have experienced all of them.
One cannot mention this company without a nod to the absolute perfection of Desmond Richardson. He is the face of the company, and in his three minutes on stage he lived up to and exceeded his reputation. If Solo (1998) was the only thing I had seen that evening, I would have been satisfied. His grand stature and flawless execution married with his emotional investment in the work leaves nothing to be criticized. All one can do is sit back, suspend reality and get lost in his performance. He is a master, in the same league as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Savion Glover and (for this reviewer) Eddie Taketa.
Through all the virtuosic dancing a strange theme emerged – hugs. They appeared in almost every piece. Mixing an embrace into unbelievable choreography, creating dynamics between the simple and the complicated is a lovely way to give the audience eye a break. The everyman can identify with this basic human expression. These are moments where dance lovers can take a breath and think, “Oh… I understand that.” It felt like warm appreciation for attending their concert. I would like to return the gratitude tenfold for the extensions, surprises, every articulation, sweat and an experience I will carry with me and share forever.
The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee
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There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”
Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”
The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence
The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.
The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.
“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”
T. Lang: A Woman Searching
The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience. Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place. The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from. Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.
On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s performance of Post Up. The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings. The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison. An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through. The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.
The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent. Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.
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