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Rhoden And Richardson Pay Homage to Bowie And 24 Years Of Complexions
By E. Mesiyah McGinnis
Published April 12, 2018

Complexions Contemporary Ballet performs at the John Hanson Ford Theatre in 2013. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

World-renowned Complexions Contemporary Ballet dance company returns to the Los Angeles Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion with Stardust, a dance and musical tribute to the late music legend David Bowie, on April 20-22.  The performances are of the 15 th season of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center. Complexions is a contemporary ballet company founded by Co-Artistic Directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, former Alvin Ailey principal dancers who left the company to find their own voice in 1994. They formed a dynamic company of beautifully trained dancers led by a choreographer who sees a world without color or perhaps uses color to create such the balance that we don’t notice the differences.

Multi-faceted artist/dancer Desmond Richardson performs at the John Hanson Ford Theatre in 2013.  He is considered one of the most significant dancers in modern time. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Although trained primarily in the African American dance experience (with such an esteemed dance education and training), the artistic duo invents thought-provoking work that intersects race and dances through cultural barriers with long taught bodies conveying the founders’ undertaking of diversity and multiculturalism, while incorporating a glamorous repertory that depends equally on skill, technique, and athleticism. The company’s mission focuses on celebrating excellence in dance, performing around the world with work that educates and uplifts audiences. Rhoden and Richardson cultivate company members’ collective abilities with artistic and spiritual-based work that encourages both collaboration and individualism from dancers blessed with a wide range of facilities.

Although trained primarily in the African American dance experience, the artistic duo invents thought-provoking work that intersects race and dances through cultural barriers. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Stardust takes Bowie’s 40-year career catalog and provides a visual that only choreographer Rhoden could create and master.  He isn’t new to the concept, having given tribute to the musical group U2 with “RISE,” set to a score by ’80s rock band, when they performed at the John Anson Ford Theatre back in 2013, along with local Black dance company Lula Washington Dance Theatre. According to his bio, Rhoden has lectured and held positions as Artist-in-Residence at universities around the U.S and has directed and choreographed for film, theater, and live performances including E! Entertainment’s Tribute to Style and Cirque Du Soleil and for artists including Prince, Lenny Kravitz, and Kelly Clarkson. Rhoden worked on the film One Last Dance, starring Patrick Swayze.  Rhoden is a 1998 New York Foundation for the Arts Award Recipient and the 2001 Rhoden Choo San Goh Award recipient for Choreography.

Complexions formed a dynamic company of beautifully trained dancers led by a choreographer who sees a world without color or perhaps uses color to create such the balance that we don’t notice the differences. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

This show promises classic Bowie hits with inventive choreography and a rock lighting plot with flamboyant glam rock costumes and makeup that made Bowie the fashion legend and stage icon he was.  While Bowie may not be a staple in the Black community, his songs like “Fame” and” Let’s Dance” had major urban crossover appeal and have been sampled countless times by urban artists.   One could argue that at certain points in his career, Bowie was a similar version of Black artists such as Little Richard, Jimmy Hendrix, George Clinton and the Parliment Funkadelic, Rick James, Sly and the Family Stone, and Prince.

Along with an illustrious dance career, Complexions Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson is committed to improving the lives of young people through dance and the arts. Here, Richardson works with youth dancers in Debbie Allen’s Dada On Ponte. Richardson and Allen have teamed on various productions.   (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Whether you’re feeling the Bowie theme or not, Complexions mixes up the repertory enough for the new and unwavering fan alike with some classic pieces.  To see Desmond Richardson is to experience a legend in the dance world, one who defies age with a physic that mimics a Wakandan Warrior and the graceful stage movement of a dance deity.  He is on an astonishing ride as an arts star, not to mention he and Rhoden’s ongoing guest appearance as consultants on the hit dance show, “So You Think You Can Dance”.  To attend a Richardson performance is to witness one of the greatest dancers of modern time.  He is a multi-faceted artist, having worked in television, film, and video.  Also an accomplished Principal dancer of American Ballet Theater, Richarson received a Tony Award nomination for Outstanding Featured Actor for his role in “Fosse” on Broadway.   He has been featured in major television and film projects and is working on a prominent role in an up-and-coming big screen role.

To see Desmond Richardson is to experience a legend in the dance world, one who defies age with a physic that mimics a Wakandan Warrior with the graceful movement of a dance deity.  (E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Rhoden and Richardson are defying the odds.  But that’s what happens when talented brothers leap with deep talent and robust faith.  Stardust at Music Center is a cultivation of nearly 25 years of Complexions creating their own forms of expression, even while going through the up and downs of maintaining a dance company as young African American men, having to wear both creative and administrative hats.  Equally impressive is the company’s survival through the country’s financial crisis of 2007-2008 when influential and historic companies like Cedar Lake no longer exist.   Through this weekend’s work, the audience has an opportunity to take a journey in the enchantment and whimsical.  If that’s you, these kinds of opportunities were sparse in Los Angeles but arts stewards such as Glorya Kaufman are the arts crusaders.  Kaufman is a philanthropist committed to financially supporting the projects that keep the arts alive and thriving in Los Angeles.  Richardson’s kindred spirit brings him to his current position of Artist-in-Residence (Ballet, Repertory, Contemporary) at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California.

Dwight Rhoden (3rd from right) and Desmond Richardson (right) make time after their performance to greet Lula Washington Dance Theatre youth dancers at the John Anson Ford Theater in 2013. Richardson connects to youth as an Artist-in-Residence (Ballet, Repertory, Contemporary) at the Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at the University of Southern California.  (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis).

Los Angeles will host a weekend of contemporary ballet while making an homage to the legacy of a bigger than life David Bowie. If you like watching beautiful bodies and soulful lines tell stories while gracefully weaving through energizing and colorful concert dance, this is where you can find this art-form on a Spring weekend night in Downtown L.A.  And behind it all are two dancers who took a chance 24 years ago, perhaps taking a bit of the Ailey experience with them of but certainly finding their own voice, movement, and truth in Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet Co-Artistic Directors Dwight Rhoden (black jacket) and Desmond Richardson (yellow top) with Company members salute the audience in gratitude at the John Hanson Ford Theatre in 2013. (Photo E. Mesiyah McGinnis)

Shows are Friday through Sunday, April 20 -.22 at the Los Angeles Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.  For more information or tickets for StarDust performances at The Music Center start at $34 and are available online at musiccenter.org/complexions; at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Box Office, 135 N. Grand Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90012; or by calling (213) 972-0711. For groups of 10 or more, call (213) 972-8555 or email mcgroupsales@musiccenter.org.

 

Additional photos E. Mesiyah McGinnis

  • This digital version has been updated with more information and photos.
Categories: Entertainment | News (Entertainment) | Theater
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