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Complexions Contemporary Ballet is an imaginative mash-up of classical technique with Alvin Ailey roots and "So You Think You Can Dance" accessibility.
Complexions co-creators Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden are bringing the New York-based company to Salt Lake City for one night to premiere their newest work, "Places Please." The piece is described as "a festive, high-energy work that emphasizes the relationship between the fanfare of audience and the spectacle of 'over the top' performance."
Complexions has been criticized for too much virtuosity and not enough substance, so "Places Please" might be something of a self-parody. But it's hard to imagine that fever-pitch dancing to the music of Brian Setzer Orchestra, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Dave Brubeck wouldn't delight most audiences.
Richardson's shooting-star background started at the New York High School for the Performing Arts and includes a Presidential Scholar Award for the Arts and a principal dancer position with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His classical strength, embodied in the Complexions style, was displayed earlier in his career in a lead role in American Ballet Theater's "Othello" and as a guest dancer with some of the best ballet companies in the world.
His theatrical background includes a Tony Award nomination for the Broadway production of "Fosse," dancing in Twyla Tharp's "Movin' Out" and performing with musical acts such as Michael Jackson and Madonna.
But much of what defines this company are the 80 ballets Rhoden has choreographed for Complexions since 1994. The long and impressive list of international companies Rhoden has danced with and created ballets for starts in his own hometown of Dayton, Ohio.
Although many Westerners couldn't locate Dayton on a map, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company is one of the largest and most influential companies of its kind between Chicago and New York City.
Rooted in the African-American experience, DCDC has provided a voice for choreographers of color since its founding by Dayton native Jeraldyne Blunden in 1968. Blunden was as insistent on technical proficiency as she was on artistic expression, so the company was as versatile as it was strong.
Blunden died in 1999. Much like her friend and colleague Alvin Ailey, who before his death chose his successor, Judith Jamison, Blunden named company dancers Kevin Ward as artistic director and her daughter Debbie Blunden-Diggs as associate artistic director both had been company members for more than 20 years.
As the dance critic for the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1988, I asked Blunden in an interview what kind of dance she preferred. She answered: "Good dance."
Accessible dance, classical strength
Complexions Contemporary Ballet will perform at Kingsbury Hall, 1395 E. Presidents Circle, University of Utah campus, Salt Lake City.
When • Tuesday, Nov. 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets • $19.50-$29.50 (plus service fees) at 801-581-7100 or http://www.kingtix.com.
Also • Complexions will perform a short piece in the atrium of the Salt Lake City Main Library, 210 E. 400 South, on Monday, Nov. 7, at noon. This mini-performance is free.
Watch • View a clip of Desmond Richardson's solo performance on "So You Think You Can Dance" at bit.ly/bC0owq.