By Cory Bilicko
Eschewing the typical gender roles to which the dance world has, for the most part, adhered, Complexions Ballet Company graced the Carpenter Center’s stage last Saturday evening in a way that only a modern ballet company can– coupling the elegance of balletic placement with the physical demands of extreme body angles that contemporary dance often requires.
Using a three-act structure to present the acts Mercy, Hissy Fits and Rise, all of which were choreographed in the last three years, founding artistic director/resident choreographer Dwight Rhoden and artistic director Desmond Richardson have constructed pieces that, in theory, especially to the layperson, border on the impossible. (Try going from a sitting position on the floor to standing by using only your lower-body muscles, in one second– that move drew a collective gasp from Saturday’s audience.) The dancers here meet these strenuous demands while assuming roles that are counterintuitive to their genders: the men display flexibility that is normally attributed to women, and the women conquer moves that show their strength.
Male dancers are not typically known for beautiful extensions and threading (interlacing body parts through and into other dancers’ bodily configurations), but those movements are put to impressive use in Complexions’ choreography, and the dancers are well matched so that the men are able to achieve positions that they’re not usually able to.
As impressive as the dancing and choreography are, this is still a ballet company, and that dance form is not known for unison. To that aforementioned layperson’s eyes, these performers may, at times, seem unsynchronized. However, because ballet’s movements are placed with a loftiness and grace, it’s not always about “hitting” or “popping” them into position. It’s a notion that bears remembering, and it makes a modern ballet company such as Complexions all the more intriguing to watch.
Next up for the Carpenter Performing Arts Center is “An Evening with John Cleese” on Nov. 17 at 8pm.