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Complexions Contemporary Ballet and Lenny Kravitz Rock the Love

by Bonnie Rosenstock
January 27, 2020
The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue (at the corner of 19th Street)
New York, NY 10011
212-242-0800
Complexions Contemporary Ballet has been around for more than a quarter of a century and regrettably, this is the first time I have seen this magnificent company. It was co-founded in 1994 by choreographer Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, both former Alvin Ailey principal dancers, who also serve as co-executive directors. Their artistic advisors are the legendary Carmen de Lavallade and Sarita Allen. With this pedigree need I say more.

The New Rochelle, New York-based award-winning company of 17 dancers and several other dance team members hit the ground dancing in a brilliant display of passion, athleticism and beauty during their two-week Joyce Theater run (January 21-February 2). I went on opening night (Program A) on January 21 for the world premiere of “Love Rocks,” a full-company ballet choreographed by Rhoden and set to the music of legendary singer/songwriter Lenny Kravitz. It was paired with the full company “Bach 25” (2018), which is deservedly an audience favorite. Program B, which unfortunately, I wasn’t available to see, consisted of “Woke” (2019), billed as “a socially conscious one act ballet,” and “Bach 25” for evening shows, and for matinees, “Essential Parts,” a compilation of excerpts from the company’s repertoire, plus “Love Rocks.”

The nine songs from “Love Rocks” formed the basis of nine dance segments, separated by a brief melt or freeze before they segued into the next dance without losing an ounce of energy. The dancers were dressed in black—men in tight black leather or spandex pants and either bare-torsoed or nearly so (with chests so prominent I could count their ribs) and the women in black leotards with frilled tutus, the latter discarded later.

In the opening number the dancers also wore an abundance of attitude as they swaggered downstage keeping with the driving music, which elicited audience approval. The women wore ballet shoes, so they danced on point or down on the ground with equal ease. They even did a neat strut about on point. There were many daring flying leaps into strong male arms, which ended in variations of turns, twists and set downs. The ensemble worked smoothly together and also thrilled with eclectic pas de deux, which showcased the depth of talent in this young company. So many outstanding dancers, but the towering, long-legged Jillian Davis, was the crowd favorite.

The finale was the moving “Here to Love,” with the lyrics, “We’re not here to judge/We’re here to love/There’s no room to hate/We must rise above/We are here to love/There’s not time to waste.” With this song Kravitz teamed up with the UN Human Rights #Fight Racism campaign to promote tolerance, equality and diversity. The Official Video is available on YouTube.

The effective lighting design by Michael Korsch consisted of changing colors and shapes of streaming cones of light. The one negative for me was that the music was so loud that it hurt my ears. I imagine most of the younger people in the audience didn’t even notice.

The high-energy “Bach 25,” with the melodic music of Johann Sebastian Bach and his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, preceded “Love Rocks.” As it was my introduction to the group, I was especially impressed with the high leg extensions executed by both the men and women. The flexible men also did perfect sitting leg splits. One of the dance moves involved sliding across the stage as if on ice without losing a step. The pairings were exquisitely performed with razor-sharp precision, whether duets, trios, quartets or more. The company gave their all in this piece and then came back to perform “Love Rocks” with the same intensity. The Love Fest was on.
Tim Stickney and Company in 'WOKE'.

Tim Stickney and Company in "WOKE".

Photo © & courtesy of Nina Wurtzel

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