Complexions Contemporary Ballet at Capitol Theatre

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson didn't set out to start a dance company. But when they stumbled across a compelling concept, they couldn't ignore it.

The two dancers were nearing the end of their time performing with the world-renowned, awe-inspiring black dance troupe Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and they decided to put together a performance with an ethnically and racially diverse set of dancers from other companies.

"Complexions was the name of the first project, because it was going to be all these different various types of dancers," explained Rhoden, a Dayton native who has previously worked with BalletMet on staging his "Carmina Burana." "We were anxious to explore, really. We wanted to bring dancers together from different worlds, various disciplines, and put them all together on one stage."

Members of the country's top ballet companies were placed side-by-side with premier modern dancers, and both groups were fascinated and energized by their different strengths.

"Desmond and I sat back and watched the dress rehearsal and thought, wow, this is something very special," he said. "We felt obligated and inspired to do something with it."

Sixteen years later, Complexions Contemporary Ballet still is faithful to that original concept of diversity.

"We actually do it in every aspect of the programming, whether it's the music, the dancers themselves, the bodies, where they're from," said Rhoden, who co-directs the ensemble with Richardson.

His choreography infuses modern dance with elements of ballet, jazz and hip-hop, and that variety never ceases to capture audiences' attention during the dance company's world tours.

During its visit to Columbus, Complexions will perform three works. The first, "Mercy," is a two-part ballet dedicated to Patrick Swayze and set to a melange of gospel music, Hans Zimmer compositions, percussion and recitations from the Quran.

"It's an abstract description of the state of the world, where things are," Rhoden said.

The next piece, "Hissy Fits," is a neoclassical work that's inspired by relationships and performed to music by Bach. And the third, "Rise," is a feel-good celebration of U2's music.

"I take a lot of different elements and put them all under one roof," Rhoden explained. "That's who I am. I'm a collagist with dance, in some ways."

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Thursday-Friday, April 7-8

Capitol Theatre

77 S. High St., Downtown