Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Complexions Dance Company. Various works by resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden including RED/The Force (from Anthem), Pretty Gritty Suite and excerpts from The Cyclical Hour and Showman’s Groove. State Theatre, The Arts Centre, Melbourne. August 1. Season ends Sunday August 6.

Then Pittsburgh in September; Newark, Camden, Providence and New Haven in October; and Detroit in November. (Tour details below.)

Desmond Richardson and Miho Morinoue
(Photograph: Phil Mucci, click to enlarge)

For the last several weeks, since seeing an extraordinary life story turned into an extraordinary monodrama, I’ve spent every spare moment mulling over one of the theatre critic’s great “sound of one hand clapping” questions: why do we tell stories?

One of those snatched moments, waiting in a departure lounge for a delayed flight out of Sydney, was hijacked when the opening song from Massive Attack’s Blue Lines shuffled onto my iPod. ‘Safe From Harm’ is a pole dancer of a song. It has the sleaziest, groin-grinding, speedball bass riff imaginable. It’s impossible to sit still to. It was torture not being able to move to it. I thought, idly, how much easier it would be to answer the question: why do we dance?

It’s no accident that the muses are siblings. Sisters. They are the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. But music and dance, surely, are siamese twins.

Watching a sampler program from New York’s Complexions Dance Company last night, I realised that the two sisters don’t always get on. And when they fight... look out! It’s bitch fight city.
Co-artistic directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson do more than just rely on music. They prey on it. It’s constantly called on to paper over the banality of Rhoden’s tizzy choreography. Counterpoint, finally, becomes irrelevance.
Complexions’ program opened with the first act of the red white and blue ballet Anthem, created in 2002. Watching it, I guessed that the company might have just stepped off a plane. They looked jet-lagged. The dance was scrappy. Ungainly. Uncoordinated.

The dancers never quite caught up to the music. Who knows? Maybe it’s a voltage conversion problem and the computer/player clock was running faster than the company is used to, here in Oz. Otherwise they need to get the pro-tools out and slow the damn thing down.

The mash-up of Hendrix, Depeche Mode, Antonio Carlos Scott and Astor Piazzolla, incidentally, was clumsy and ear-splittingly loud.

Apart from a brief quintet for three men and two women, post Jimi Hendrix’s version of The Star-Spangled Banner, the choreography was like a comic parody of ‘serious’ dance. (And Anthem is, specifically, an examination “of the world and its complexities... [exploring] impressions of recent and past historical events.”) It’s full of high-fives and salutes and Broadway wrist flapping... as silly and insubstantial as the costumes.

Less, here, would have been much more.
I tried hard to focus on one dancer at a time, pick the best and hang on, to look for a syntax. Some hard meaning. But there was nothing in the dance but adverbs.
The mid-section of the program was better. The sinewy, slower trio for three men, Gone, which led after interval, was one of the highlights of the night. Even so, it had its silliness and melodrama and disposable detail. In the cute-but-slight Frankly (2005), two women (Adrienne Canterna and Ebony Haswell) danced up a storm while the objects of their desire stood around: hunky, gormless and oblivious. And here’s the problem... Every single eye in the 2000-seat theatre was trained on the stationary ones.

Next up was a song from Showman’s Groove, also created in 2005. Yusha Marie Sorzano and Jason Jacobs danced to a recording of Michael Bublé singing ‘A Foggy Day (in London Town)’. I couldn’t help but compare this piece to Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs... a piece that made everyone who saw it wanna run out and buy a ballgown or tux and get twirling. This made me wanna go to the zoo.

And DM Design, who created Desmond Richardson’s flouncy laplap should consider changing its name to DMF Design.

Out of charity, Sweet Charity, I won’t say much about Pretty Gritty Suite, which followed the second interval... except to say that it did as much violence to Nina Simone’s songs as Nine and a Half Weeks did to Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’. That’s some achievement, huh?

Oh, and the costumes by Epperson -- ragged, orange, shorty-pyjama pants and offcuts -- were so bad that I am considering submitting pictures of them to the gofugyourself girls. Cos I can’t think of anything sufficiently and appropriately insulting.

Well, if you don't like the costumes...
The united -- er -- Complexions of Benetton.

On September 7, Desmond Richardson is part of the 22nd annual Gala Des Étoiles at the Place des Arts, Montréal, Québec.

Future Complexions dates:

September 28, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

October 14 & 15: NJPAC, Newark
October 18: Camden, New Jersey
October 20: Providence, Rhode Island
October 21: New Haven, Connecticut

November 3 & 4: Detroit Music Hall

January 2007 dates include the New York City (Joyce Theater); Atlanta and Kansas City.

February 2007: Stamford, Boston, Princeton, Indianapolis, Columbus Ohio and Bloomington Indiana.

March 2007: New Orleans

April 2007: Norfolk Virginia

May: Lodz, Warsaw, Poznan, Bydgosz and Krakow Poland

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Anonymous Anonymous said...


7:07 PM  
Blogger Chris Boyd said...

D is for Dumb, M is for mutha, ...

As in that film Revenge of the DMFs...

1:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What did this company do to you? Your comments seem not of a critic but of an angry jaded person.
I attended their performance on Thursday and had a completely different experience.
Do you have any idea of what is happening in this world? What I watched on Thursday spoke to the voices of today. Sorry you missed it.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Rachael Byrnes said...

Why do we dance.. As a musician, I've asked myself that before and I've asked why do we make music. What is music? Where does it come from. It's such a mystery don't you think?

11:56 PM  

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