While it’s probably true that contemporary ballet can be defined only in terms of Balanchine, that’s not what Dance Magazine was getting at when they described Dwight Rhodan’s choreography as post-Balanchinian. Having choreographed more than sixty ballets for his Manhattan-based company, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Rhodan’s oeuvre is recognized as pointing towards a new aesthetic in dance. Of course this isn’t terribly surprising if you consider the innovative artistic context from which he emerged—both Rhodan and his co-artistic director, dancer Desmond Richardson, were first principal dancers with Alvin Ailey.
While, as Rhodan insists, “his foundation is always classical ballet,” the company’s impetuous energy and choreography set it apart from other contemporary ballet companies—as was evident for anyone who caught Complexion’s brief turn at September’s Chicago Dancing Festival.
If Balanchine (the Modernist) sought purity, Rhodan sees his own work in terms of “taking this form and turning it inside out, testing its limits.” Concretely this means inviting interesting “contaminations”—improvisation, urban street dance, poetry and multimedia.
You can see the latest results of this formal experimentation at the Auditorium Theatre, beginning November 10, when Complexions returns to Chicago for a full-length program. The slated repertory program begins with the most enticing work, an all-Chopin ensemble work—charmingly entitled “Dear Frederic”—that the company premiered this season. Composed for eleven dancers, the piece should be the right opportunity for Rhodan to showcase his capacity to re-take the classical.
In contrast, “the pieces in the middle of the program are a little more intimate and exploratory,” Rhodan explains. Works for one-to-three dancers, they include a solo created for and performed by Desmond Richardson set to the music of Prince.
While aesthetically, Rhodan’s work might be self-defined, he does see a certain “spiritual” affinity with his former teacher, Alvin Ailey: “If anything I hope this company embodies some of that man’s generosity of spirit, the capacity to really be engulfed by what you and do and perform completely without reserve.” (Debbie Goldgaber)
Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Congress, (312)902-1500. This production is now closed.