Artfully curated by Culturadar
November 10, 2014
Complexions Contemporary Ballet Returns to The Joyce
Desmond Richardson, co-founder and artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, tells Culturadar about founding the company, this season's schedule, and their return to The Joyce this month.
Culturadar: Take us back to 1994, what was the process for launching Complexions? What helped bring this to life?
Desmond Richardson: Given the climate of the performing arts in 1994, most people told us it would be a bad idea to launch Complexions at that time. But, having legends like Alvin Ailey, Carmen Delavallade, Mary Hinkson, George Faison, Judith Jamison and an amalgam of other positive forces really set us on the road to success. These influences and teachers believed in our idea passionately and helped us to go forth and deliver to audiences our honest approach to this art form.
CR: Such a celebratory year, what are some fond memories along the road?
DR: In our 20th anniversary season, we reflect on the early years when we asked a mash up of companies as well as dancers from around the city to engage in this idea we had. Watching it all come together 20 years ago is still a memory I will never forget.
CR: How have the dancers and choreographers Complexions has collaborated with in the past shaped where it is today?
DR: Dwight Rhoden (Complexions Co-Artistic Director) and I feel that the incorporation of different types of dancers and choreographers helps to shape the company by challenging the dancers beyond their comfort zone and allowing them to foster their own unique voices.
CR: What’s it like performing at the Joyce - what’s special about your seasons there?
DR: Performing at The Joyce is always a treat for us and we love the venue and what it has done to raise the profile of dance companies. The moment we were first asked to be on the roster of companies was special and significant as it helped establish our company and its distinctive brand of dance in the city. Our seasons at The Joyce have been special because we get to see ourselves grow and evolve over the the years. Performing at a venue where we have intimate knowledge of the layout and dynamics of the theater is exciting because we understand the space so well. Also, it is always a thrill to see so many returning audience members in addition to people who are experiencing our company for the first time.
CR: You’re bringing in such an eclectic and talented group of ideas and performers, how did you go about developing the program for this season?
DR: For our 20th anniversary season we wanted to share with the audience the diversity in the work that has been our brand staple since its inception. So, we built the program based on the new works we created just for this anniversary in addition to some of our favorite pieces from the past 20 years.
CR: What are some highlights of the pieces being performed and premiered this season?
DR: Some of the best elements this season are the Dwight Rhoden/Terrance Blanchard new work, “Head Space," Marcelo Gomes’ “IGUAL,” set to live instrumentation, Dwight Rhoden's new work, "The Groove," set to music of the Pet Shop boys, and fan favorite “Hissy Fits,” set to the music of Bach. These are all wonderful pieces in their own right but the combination of works to create each program will give audiences a great feel for what Complexions Contemporary Ballet is all about and where we are going.
CR: How did Complexions and Terence Blanchard (Grammy Award winning New Orleans jazz musician) find each other and start collaborating?
DR: The Terrence Blanchard/Complexions collaboration came to fruition through a grant from Chevron fostered by the New Orleans Ballet Association with whom we've had a very long standing relationship.
CR: For the Gala, describe what it's like to work with artists like Misty Copeland and Clifford Williams?
DR: Working with Misty Copeland and Clifford Williams is pretty fantastic. Having their sheer brilliance and talent in the room is really magical. It is a humbling experience to have two highly respected and talented artists come together to lend their talents to a work you have created. We are delighted to be able to have them grace the stage for Dwight's work “AvĂ¨ Maria” on this special night.
CR: What characteristics do you love about the group of dancers you are working with this year?
DR: The characteristics I adore about the grouping of dancers we are engaging this year are their eagerness and their desire to continue the legacy of Complexions. That legacy has been built with a passion, an integrity, and a commitment to the level of excellence Dwight and I demand. Being a dancer is no easy feat physically, but having the mental fortitude for the long rehearsals and training is a characteristic we find in our company members.
CR: We want to let you savor this moment but we have to ask - what’s next for Complexions?
DR: Complexions is really thinking about the next generation of dancers and what they can bring to our company one day. Aside from creating new works and performing we are also building our training academy where we teach and help foster the next generation of brilliant dancers and artists.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet performs at The Joyce November 18-30.
Posted at 9:03 PM