With their impeccable ballet technique, combined with modern dance athletic strength and suppleness, and infused with vigorous high energy, range of individual expression, and collective passion, the company of COMPLEXIONS Contemporary Ballet wowed the audience in their debut performance at the Wallis Center for the Performing Arts.

Music provided the emotive vitality for the compelling choreography of Dwight Rhoden, who with Co-Artistic Director Desmond Richardson founded COMPLEXIONS in 1994. They offered us a very enjoyable, uplifting and appreciated evening of artistry in the two works on the 90-minute program.

Snatched Back (key figures on right – l-r) Khayr Muhamed, Jillian Davis, The Company; photo by Kevin Parry

“Snatched Back from The Edges” (2021) portrays the resilience of the human spirit and strength to create change in confronting the challenges and pain we face at many personal and societal levels — isolation, violence, and inequity. The varying configurations of dancers skillfully moved coordinated to the choreographic complexity as scenes seamlessly transitioned with the musical selections.

The piece began with the tone-setting pulsating piano notes and chords of Jon Baptise’s “Chopinesque” as the dancers appeared under the spot-lit stage. Throughout, the dancers stretched, gesticulated, and moved across the stage in an often fast-paced manner the spiritually inspired music and lyrics of “Satan, We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down” by Shirley Ceasar and message that “God always works it out” in “Work It Out” by Tye Tribbett. The spoken word piece “Fear” by Terrell Lewis directed a shift a more inner physicality expressed in response to the often-overlooked personal battle many people have with depression, anxiety, and mental health. The lyrics of “The Future” by Egbert Nathaniel Dawkins III reinforced the affirmation that “There is a light at the end of this road … As long as my head is high and I walk with pride … The future belongs to me.”

In the second half, we were treated with the more popularly accessible rock opera-like 2016 “Star Dust”, an homage to the musical genre and persona shifting artistry of David Bowie. While “Star Dust” is noted to be the first installment of a full evening length ballet, it was completely satisfying as a stand-alone work.

StarDust Serafin Castro; photo by Kevin Parry

Wearing the glam styled costumes designed by Christine Darch, the dancers, fronted by members who lip-synced the lyrics, embodied the look and feel of Bowie’s androgyny as they playfully romped, pranced, strutted and vamped to nine songs including “Changes”,  “Life on Mars”, “1984”, and “Modern Love”, The finale included whole company moving and shaking facing and engaging the audience to the sound of what perhaps should be an invitation for the times, “Let’s Dance.”

The Company: Jacopo Calvo, Serafin Castro*, Jillian Davis, Vincenzo Di Primo, Thomas Dilley, Larissa Gerszke, Brandon Gray, Joe Gonzalez, Tatiana Melendez, Khayr Muhammad, Simon Plant, Zion Pradier, Miguel Solano, Tim Stickney, Eriko Sugimura, April Watson. Apprentices: Emma Branson, Christian Burse, Aidan Wolf

To learn more about Complexions Contemporary Ballet, please visit https://www.complexionsdance.org/

To find out more about the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, please visit https://thewallis.org/