Bach 25 and Star Dust by Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Joyce Theater. Closes March 3.

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Shanna Irwin and Jared Brunson In Bach 25.

Shanna Irwin and Jared Brunson In Bach 25.

Bach 25 and Star Dust
Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Joyce Theater
February 20, 2019

Fresh Bach; Less So Bowie

When the curtain went up on Bach 25, some of the audience gasped as it seemed as though the dancers were nude. Not so—their sculpted, athletic bodies are clad in Christine Darch’s minimal costumes and set off in bronzy lighting by Michael Korsch making them look like living sculpture. The thirty-minute piece passed in an instant as the dancers stretched in thrilling poses, sometimes alone and other moments in twos and threes. This is a very contemporary work with clean line and deep pliés as well as twisting, flickering, arms and hands that lend humor.

The piece, making its New York debut, moves quickly, so much so that it at times it was literally breathtaking to watch such speedy, yet beautifully paced movements. Bach 25, named for the company’s twenty-fifth anniversary and also because Bach is Choreographer Dwight Rhoden’s favorite composer, whom he wanted to celebrate, employs ballet technique with the women in soft shoes. The work includes both complicated partnering as well as some exciting solos and wonderful moments when the dancers lock arms and spiral together. When the curtain came down I felt a rush similar to the experience of a thrilling horse race—not so strange as there is enormous energy throughout the work.

Tall, red-haired Jillian Davis is a standout with a huge extension and grace in every move and pose. Also of note, Brandon Gray, currently in his third season with Complexions, who has so much presence it’s almost impossible to look elsewhere when he is dancing. In fairness, the entire sixteen member company is a delight to watch.

Jillian Davis and Doug Baum in Star Dust.

Jillian Davis and Doug Baum in Star Dust.

Bach 25 was so thrilling that the second piece, Star Dust, a ballet tribute to David Bowie, was almost tame, despite a lot of braggadocio moments including the opening that literally dazzles with light shooting into the audience. The work deals with gender fluidity with Maxfield Haynes on pointe, later echoed by women with attitude galore, glitz and glitter notably on the dancers’ faces and Darch’s glam-rock costumes. In many ways, I preferred the carefully understated look of the clothes in Bach 25. 

Several of the dancers lip-synch to Bowie’s music which I find a bit too obvious, like overblown karaoke. The piece incorporates nine Bowie numbers, each from a different album all sung by Bowie with the exception of “Heroes” sung by Peter Gabriel. Dwight Rhoden, obviously mad about Bowie’s work, says that “Star Dust is the first installment of a full evening-length Ballet tribute” to the star’s career; it will be interesting to see how and if this comes off. Rhoden is a talented choreographer although he tends to repeat motions too often like the lines of dancers walking across the back of the stage. Nevertheless, he keeps the audience glued to the action.  

Complexions Contemporary Ballet was founded in 1994 by Master Choreographer Dwight Rhoden and legendary dancer Desmond Richardson to reinvent dance through a groundbreaking mix of methods, styles and cultures. Today, Complexions represents one of the most recognized and respected performing arts brands in the world.  Having presented an entirely new and exciting vision of human movement on 5 continents, over 20 countries, to over 20 million television viewers and to well over 300,000 people in live audiences, Complexions is poised to continue its mission of bring unity to the world, one dance at a time.

Complexions has received numerous awards including The New York Times Critics’ Choice Award and has appeared throughout the US, as well as at The Bolshoi Theater, The Kremlin, The Mikhailovsky Theater and Melbourne Arts Center. 

About the author

Mari S. Gold

Mari S. Gold is a freelance writer who contributes to many magazines and websites. Her blog, But I Digress… , on cultural events, travel, food  and other topics is at www.marigoldonline.net. She lives in New York City.

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