Always innovative and expanding, Complexions Contemporary Ballet opens its 21st season with three premieres. Co-founder and legendary dancer, Desmond Richardson, excitedly talks about the program, the company’s future vision, and his connection with Philadelphia. [The Prince Theater, 1412 Chestnut Street] October 14-18, 2015; princetheater.org; complexionsdance.org.
Desmond Richardson: We are looking forward to offering an exciting and diverse opening performance of this season in the new venue-the Prince theater. We are performing three premiers in addition to various pieces from our repertory.
Phindie: The three premiers seem totally different from each other just by looking at the music they are set to. Was that the intention?
DR: We wanted to offer diversity in the program. Being diverse and able to go beyond boundaries on a strong foundation of classical ballet is our company’s strength and character. While the songs of a heavy metal band (Metallica) is used for STRUM, which is a world premier, BALLAD UNTO is set to Bach’s music and more classical style as danced on pointe. CRYIN’ TO CRY OUT is inspired by the legendary Jazz singer Jimmy Scott.
Phindie: The company has just launched a new office in Atlanta, GA, as part of the first phase of strategic long term plan for the company’s growth, BEYOND 20 campaign. What is your next project?
DR: We are very excited about the new office. It is a first big step for our long term vision. We have already established our own method and technique and have been offering them to the public through our website, but we are planning to found our own academic school where we teach Complexions’ contemporary ballet through our method.
Phindie: What keeps you inspired and motivated?
DR: It’s the passion and the curiosity. I want to know more about dancing. I began as a hip-hop dancer as a young child and one day encountered Rudolph Nureyev dancing Le Corsaire on TV. I instantly thought that I wanted to be like him. It was not only how he looked, but everything about his dancing struck my heart. I would imitate him and taught myself, but realized I needed the right training. I started my training at the High School of the Performing Arts in NY and received a full scholarship to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center.
Phindie: How do you define “contemporary ballet”?
DR: Contemporary ballet certainly uses tools and steps classical ballet does. The dancers wear pointe shoes and show Arabesque and Fifth position. Dwight Rhoden and I ask the dancers to refine and justify their extensions, to let their extremities be part of the dialogue of the movement.
Phindie: Where is your favorite place to visit in Philadelphia?
DR: I have some of my family members in Philadelphia and have been visiting this city since I was six years old. The music scene there is historical and the company has just recently worked with Grammy Winner and Philly native Jill Scott on a new project. I like the river area, the museums, the views of the city. It’s a very historical and beautiful city that has lots to offer. The art scene has been booming and people here work very hard to make things better.