Spiritual, self-empowering and soulful are the words I would use to describe the world premier of Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s latest work Testament, which premiered this past weekend in Dallas.
Everything from the choreography, vocals and lighting had a spiritual quality attached to it. Dwight Rhoden’s athletic and African-inspired movement was accompanied by Negro-spirituals sung live and mostly a cappella by Dallas vocalists Cedric Neal and Liz Mikel. Neal’s deep, resounding voice sent chills up my spin when he sang “The Lord’s Prayer” as the curtain rose to reveal Desmond Richardson, bare-chested and skirted, leaning back with arms opened wide and face staring into the heavens. The lighting mimicked the glass-stained windows of a church which set the mood for the rest of the piece.
I felt empowered watching the dancers trying to escape Richardson’s attempts to bring them to the dark side. They ran, jumped and slid away from his grasp. The partnering was aggressive and sometimes desperate; the females clinging to the males as they were flung around and away from temptation. The male dancers powered through the piece with high jumps, quick footwork and intense floorwork, including splits, forward rolls and back limbers into a standing position.
The piece concluded with the dancers swaying and clapping to “Swing Low, Sweet Charity” as the curtain descended. The final dance was uplifting and soulful. It was a celebration. The dancers were clapping and smiling and their movement was spontaneous as opposed to choreographed.
Even though the piece ended on a high note I still felt like something was missing. The dance kept building and building and when the climax finally came I was like “Really, it’s over.” Maybe if the dancers had departed the stage vs. having the curtain drop of them would have given me some closure. Or maybe Rhoden didn’t want me to have closure. You can’t close the door on faith and maybe that’s what he wanted me to take away.