Complexions Weaves Choreographed Wonders at The Wallis

By Ernest Kearney — Dance has been equated to language less poetry. Complexions, the dance company founded by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, in 1994, gives validation to that observation, with this extraordinary troupe imbuing meter, syntax, and imagery with a physical reality that is, indeed, wordlessly poetic.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet opened their performance, at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, with a statement both visceral and defiant. Snatched Back from the Edges was conceived as an homage to the resilience of the human spirit and in form it comes across as a Pollock canvas painted in the midst of Lear’s storm. It is a fusion of the brooding, some might say mourning, bass opening of Ryan Hope, Jacob Lush and Ari Balouzian’s Blame, Jon Batiste’s Chopinesque, the gospel of Shirley Ceasar, the spoken word of Terrell Lewis and other musical selections that provide these dancers with a wind that blows, cracks its cheek! Rages and blows!

Against this melodic tempest, the company applies the frenzied imagery of struggle, tinged with desperation perhaps, but never defeat. This is a youthful company, vigorous and muscular, possessed of that unique amalgam of elegance and verve comparable to La La La Human Steps, Édouard Lock’s famed Québécois dance company.

Throughout Snatched Back From the Edges, the performers, in a virtual maelstrom of motion whirls about the stage as if in the grip of a demonic destiny, yet conveying in the face of some ominous inevitable a sense of defiance, which renders the inevitable doubtful.

Brandon Gray, Joe Gonzales, Emma Branson and especially Jillian Davis draws one in by their very presence, but when the piece finishes and the curtain falls, the full troupe of Complexions has masterfully obtained what all dance companies strive for, but few achieve, an audience both electrified and hungering for more.

If the first half of the evening thundered with Lear’s storm, the second half rocked to Bowie. Nine of David Bowie’s greatest hits from Changes to Young Americans provided the dancers with the opportunity to present various interpretations of the iconic performer to the audience like so many reflections in a fun house mirror.

In a fashion it was an enticing, and very loving “Battle of the Bowies with Sarafin Castro as Space Oddity Bowie and Simon Plant as Ziggy Stardust Bowie coming to the forefront, though for my money Thomas Dilley took the gold as Life on Mars Bowie, with Tatiana Melendez and Aidan Wolf superbly supporting them.

Complexions will be at The Wallis for only a few performances before continuing forth on its multi-city tour, but they are a company that should be duly noted and eagerly awaited for when next they visit L.A.

* * *

For More Information about The Wallis upcoming programs and events go to:

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

No comments


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.