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Misty Copeland, Complexions on pointe

By Sade Gardner
Observer writer
gardners@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, September 03, 2018

Balletomanes got to witness esteemed prima ballerina Misty Copeland and some of the more popular recitals from world-renowned dance troupe Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Little Theatre in Kingston, on Saturday night.

The event marked the final of two-nights of the 2018 Pliť for the Arts Gala performance, which drew a sold-out audience, dressed to impress. Performing to pieces primarily choreographed by Complexions co-principal Dwight Rhoden, the production unfolded in two acts.

The evening got underway with Rhoden's Bach 25, which featured a diverse group of ballerinas and danseurs in nude leotards, set against a black background. The recital comprised three parts (Reverence, Celebration and Moxie) with music from German composer Johann Sebastian Bach. It served as a fine introduction and for some reminder of the fluent, defined elegance that is heavily associated with Complexions.

The troupe's co-founder and co-artistic director Desmond Richardson dazzled in his thought-provoking solo performance of IMPRINT/MAYA, a soul-stirring piece featuring Maya Angelou's poem My Guilt, set to music by jazz composer David Rozenblatt. Wearing a dark-coloured brief, a dim light tracked Richardson's intense extensions, tight turns and sharp bends across the stage as his character translated pressing conflicts through classical ballet and street dance forms. The daunting piano deepened the mood of the recital, and a resounding applause filled the theatre at the end of the piece. That applause was reignited at the start of the next piece, which revealed crowd favourite Misty Copeland and Clifford Williams in the signature Complexions Pas de Deux Ava Maria (excerpt from the Grapes of Wrath). Symbolically dressed in purple and gold, the recital explores the idea of spirituality and a pure, angelic transition into the afterlife. Copeland mystified watchers with lithe extensions as she moved lightly on her feet, and in one bend rose from the ground on the tip of her toes, reaping a “wowed” applause.

Act two, titled Stardust, was a colourful, sprightly repertoire paying homage to British rockstar David Bowie. Nine of Bowie's songs were used for short recitals and the 24-year-old ensemble did its best in imitating Bowie's various personas, while adding its personal touch. Choreographed by Rhoden and Richardson, the production started with Lazarus from Bowie's last album ( Blackstar) released in 2016. Complexions star Terk Lewis emerged from the background and lip-synched to the track, a dramatic element which continued with other lead dancers (Andrew Brader, Greg Blackmon, Addison Ector et al) throughout the tribute. Decked in face paint, glitter and multicoloured outfits, the group incorporated other dance forms like hip hop and rock and roll to end the night on a jolly note. Ballerinas including Copeland haughtily strutted on the tip of their toes resembling the quintessential housewife of the 1970s. The ode included Bowie's Life on Mars, Rock and Roll Suicide, and Young Americans, which ended the piece.

Powerful is how Richardson described the final performance night.

“The performance was powerful, it was so good,” he told the Jamaica Observer after the show. “Today was different than yesterday, it was very palpable and we were really energised. I hope we were able to provoke thought and I hope the audience sees that passion exists in dance, and if any young ones are interested in dance they should go for it; live your passion to the fullest and the people will feel you and it will transport audiences. We're looking forward to when we can return and give you guys some new material.”