A vibrant and delicious cocktail of movement
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Wednesday, February 22 at Ruth Seaton James Auditorium
The Ruth Seaton James Auditorium was brimming with dancers this past week for the only pure dance offering in this year’s Bermuda Festival programme.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet played to gratifyingly near-full houses with viewers of all generations.
It was encouraging to see so many young faces, among them many keen young dancers from the island’s plethora of dance schools.
Just as it stated in the programme, Complexions offered a delicious fusion of dance genres accessible to all audience members with pieces set to an eclectic range of music — from JS Bach, to heavy metal and everything in between.
Choreographer Dwight Rhoden, who has created over 90 ballets for the company, has clearly developed his own dance language from this happy fusion of dance styles. He offers a vibrant cocktail of movement, at times angular and at other lyrical, where a classical foundation is knit with a contemporary edge. All speaks of variety. However, somewhat disappointingly, Rhoden seems to favour the same dance vocabulary and phrasing whatever the musical setting. This fitted some pieces better than others.
Complexions’ dancers are all fluid technicians who underpin their work with sound classical control combined with a lithe, almost mercurial, mobility. Their performance was no doubt true to the text, but the choreographic language spoke not of the insight or intention for each piece as described in the accompanying programme. Ballad Unto’s “intimate abstraction of love” was creative yet nebulous, and Strum’s so-called exploration of “controversial themes of life, love, death and evolution” were unclear. But, it did not matter.
In fact, the programme’s prosaic notes added nothing to the enjoyment of each work. All were strong enough to be open to the individual’s interpretation. The notes were more a distraction than a guide. The works, like all true pieces of art whether visual or performance, should stand alone and not require some overarching explanation to facilitate their full appreciation.
As has already been acknowledged, the company’s dancers were technically polished and well drilled. But, where was the soul? Not the dancers’ fault, I hazard, given the degree of precision in the works’ execution on Wednesday evening. Undoubtedly, they read the text faithfully.
However, there was, thankfully, the odd glimmer of passion and personality, particularly from the shape-shifting fireball, Timothy Stickney in the excerpt from For Once in My Life — Inversions. His was a charismatic interpretation packed with tight tornado turns and febrile urgency.
Production values were employed with wise economy. Costuming exposed rather than deflected attention from the dancers’ alignment.
The quality of the musical recording played was well pitched and true to its dynamic range of colour. Even the account of Metallica’s compositions was sufficiently rich while still kind on the ear. Michael Korsch’s lighting brought depth and dimension. Dancers appeared as if emerging from the shadows of the scene dock with spotlights playing on their sculpted limbs and where simple movement patterns in balanced unison captivated a hungry audience, as in the sextet in Strum.
Complexions is a company of dancers-cum-lyrical athletes, a necessary attribute for performers coping with the physical demands of today’s new and evolving choreography, and none more so than YoungSil Kim and Kelly Marsh IV performing the signature Complexions pas de deux Ave Maria. This piece, along with Stickney’s whirlwind turns, will live long in the memory.
•For the full list of Festival shows visit: bermudafestival.org.
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