Complexions Contemporary Ballet: A Ten +

By Hal de Becker


In Europe and elsewhere it’s not uncommon for an audience to clap its hands in unison for a superlative performance.It’s a way of mutually expressing appreciation for a shared artistic experience.

I don’t recall that kind of ovation being given for a dance event in Las Vegas -- until recently at Ham Hall at the conclusion of a thrilling performance by Complexions Contemporary Ballet (CCB) when the audience sprang to its feet and applauded as one.

It’s often remarked that trained ballet dancers can dance anything and ‘Complexions’ proved the point.

Each of the company’s 17 artists was of ‘principal dancer’ quality in classical ballet including pointe, and contemporary techniques.

They had beautifully arched feet, high, but tasteful, extensions, pulled up torsos and harmonious body lines all of which they used with precision and artistic sensitivity.

It was like seeing ideal picture-book-drawings come to life.

Every step was danced full-out and with every ounce of energy the dancers possessed.They didn’t just ‘do’ the choreography they gave all of themselves to it; bodies, of course, but also spirits, intelligence and their individual persona's.

There wasn’t a virtuoso turn or leap they didn’t execute. But more than just technical perfection, they also delivered dynamic emotional freedom.

The program’s five dances were choreographed by Dwight Rhoden who, with Desmond Richardson, is the company’s co-founder/director.

Mr. Rhoden’s works are in the repertoires of numerous companies including Dance Theatre of Harlem, Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre with which he was a principal dancer.

Wisely, he may have been influenced by other masters including Alvin Ailey and George Balanchine but he didn’t imitate them.He didn’t need to.

He created a synergy of classical ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, modern and ethnic disciplines which extended the usual limits of each without resorting to the meaningless distortions that often seem different just for the sake of being different.

By expanding and building upon the essential foundations of classical and contemporary dance forms he has created a new form that is uniquely beautiful, dramatic and accessible. His troupe is, as its name implies, a ‘contemporary ballet’ company.

The themes of the program’s ballets included love, angst, spirituality, conflict and joy.There were too many impressive passages in the dances to describe more than a couple.

One occurred in a ballet named “Mercy” about guilt and repentance in which the dancers depicted feelings of shame by kneeling and hiding their heads inside empty

buckets.It was a powerful image.

In another work, “Rise”, the dancers ran in place, legs moving so fast they became a visual blur.

Likewise, there were too many superb dancers to name them -- except for one: the spectacular master dancer Desmond Richardson who provided the evening’s most memorable solo dancing.

Mr. Richardson recently portrayed the title role in ABT’s ballet “Othello” and later partnered Russia’s prima ballerina Diana Vishneva in New York City and Moscow.

Recordings of ‘U2’, Muddy Waters, Prince and others supplied most of the music. In one piece even silence, speech and church bells were part of the accompaniment.

Lighting designs by Michael Korsch were rich and intense and the costumes by Christine Darch and DM Design colorful and body-friendly.

“Complexions” ranks among the finest dance events presented here in recent years and UNLV’s Performing Arts Center deserves applause for presenting it.