Complexions Contemporary Ballet
Detroit Summer Intensive
Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts
Generously Sponsored by Maggie Allesee
Saturday, July 14, 2012
By Julie Gervais
“It’s the original choreography – the exact same as what the Company dances. We didn’t want to dumb it down.”
Right away, you sit up a little straighter in your seat. ‘Really?’ you think. Because if you’ve ever seen Complexions Contemporary Ballet, you know that the choreography is so richly complex, so intricate, and so jam-packed that it’s hard to imagine anyone but seasoned professionals getting a handle on it.
And that’s where your imagination will have failed you.
These kids – some as young as 11, some in their early 20s – accomplished incredible things over the course of two weeks. It’s a tribute to the Complexions artistic staff, of course, but credit should also be given to the clearly strong corps of local schools that prepared these students for the experience. This show wouldn’t have been what it was unless these students were ready to meet the challenge.
The program structure was well-designed. Each student section, grouped into four skill levels, began with staged phrases of class work. This lays it right out: ‘ballet is hard. The exercises take a long time to master, and we have to repeat them thousands of times. But we have to do classical ballet well if we want to do contemporary ballet well.’
It’s not easy to put together a student performance in two weeks. Using the classwork as a base, the faculty set sections of numerous dances on each group. At each level, you see them grappling with the rigid requirements of classical work, and then learning to set their bodies free into looser lines and shapes. Advancing through the ranks, the older and more experienced students show how, bit by bit, this becomes more and more possible. The fascinating thing is the progression. It’s almost like watching a time-lapse video of the human growth pattern / 2nd decade.
And none of this is to say that there wasn’t some fabulous dancing. These kids were fired up! Christina Dooling’s group was first up and set the tone, beginning with their tendu combination and transitioning to a medley of stylish and diverse selections from repertory. One of the most exciting things about Complexions is the enormously broad range of music that they use. Spirituals segue into Dave Brubeck’s Take 5, then on to some rockabilly on the way to the Chopin. It’s kind of a wild ride at times, and the choreography no less so. But this is exactly why this Company is credited with a paradigm shift. They have never accepted the idea of arbitrary boundaries or limits on the use of ballet as a tool for the creation of great art.
The performance was polished to a shine by Complexions’ professional dance faculty, who stepped out on stage to show some of Dwight Rhoden’s choreography at full throttle. For dance students, there is no substitute for close-range study of professionals at the top of their game. Inspirational dance artists all.
Special mention to Adam McGaw, WSU student, who did a beautiful job with a solo by
Associate Artistic Director Jae Man Joo. The iconic Bach cello suite #1 was well represented. Also to David Sherban, who moves with incredible fluidity and a center of serene calm, and to Sam Horning and Alyssa Clark for some sophisticated pas de deux work. A big shoutout to outstanding soloists in each of the groups whose names are sadly unknown to us now, but who will likely become known as they dance their way up through the local ranks. Look for performance listings on dancepanorama’s calendar, and get out to support your local dance artists in training!