Tag Archives: Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Preview: Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s Winter Series

Out of this World

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance aims to resemble alien rock stars in Mark Caserta and Mikey Morado’s new work Dregs, part of the company’s Winter Series at WaterTower Theatre.

DCCD rehearses Dregs. Photo: Brian Kenny

Addison — “An alien dark underbelly vibe, but with a gentle tone,” is how Mark Caserta describes the mood of Dregs, a new piece he and fellow choreographer and boyfriend Mikey Morado have created for Dark Circles Contemporary Dance’s (DCCD) Winter Series, which boosts works made by queer choreographers centering on gay identity in America. The program will also feature Eoghan Dillon’s Boys Are and Joshua L. Peugh’s Bud, which he did in collaboration with multimedia artist Brian Kenny. The performance will be held Jan. 24-27 at Addison Theatre Center, DCCD’s new home for 2019 thanks to its new partnership with WaterTower Theatre.

“It’s quite gender confusing, but very sexy,” Caserta says about the approximately 22-minute work, which includes an original score by Pittsburgh-based slowdanger whom he says mixed the track in the studio while the dancers worked. “It’s alien and out there, but also has a relatable vibe.”

As for the choreography in the piece Morado says, “We like to work with images that are more chic and simplistic and less confetti and more latex. So, what we made at the end of the day was a very alien world that has its own rules and doesn’t really operate within this 2019 America vibe.”

Morado and Caserta are both products of reputable dance institutions. Morado received a BFA in dance at Marymount Manhattan College before joining Sidra Bell Dance New York in 2013. Caserta trained at the Ailey School and graduated from the University of the Arts with a BFA in ballet performance. He has danced with Eleone Dance Theatre, Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Les Ballets Jazz De Montreal and Camille A. Brown + Dancers.

Mikey Morado in Mark Caserta’s Good Boy. Photo: Matthew Caserta
The couple met via social media and began collaborating with each other soon after. They were living and working in New York City when they decided to move to Dallas to work for Christy Wolverton-Ryzman at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, in 2015.

“I have known of Dance Industry since my time at Complexions,” Caserta says. “The kids would come to New York City to attend workshops, and through them I developed a relationship with Christy and Jamie Anderson. They had offered me a job a few years before, but I was working, so it wasn’t until 2015 when Mikey and I were looking for a change that I asked them if the offer still stood and we moved to Dallas.”

Morado says that his relationship with Dance Industry didn’t start until after the couple had made their decision to move. “I had never met either of them, but we came out in March to teach and see what the vibe was here and Jamie and Christy picked us up from the airport and the second we got in the car with them there was an instantaneous certainty that we belong here. So, they brought me on and gave me basically the same amount of role that Mark has in the studio.”

It was about a year later when Wolverton-Ryzman handed over the reins of the Thriving Artist Project to Morado and Caserta. “This was something she had started the year prior to hiring us,” Morado says. “It was a small scale project and really more about her connecting with the kids and giving them professional advice.”

He continues, “I think she knew she wanted to amp up the program and that she wanted to do something that would extend beyond the walls of Dance Industry in a very real and practical concert dance sense. So her bringing Mark and I on, she knew that she would be well-connected to the current dance world that is still happening in New York and all over the world.”

So far Morado and Caserta have been living up this promise as evident by the list of names they have on the Thriving Artist Project’s event calendar online. The list includes high end choreographers such as Sidra Bell of Sidra Bell Dance New York, Jonathan Alsberry of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Micaela Taylor of TL Collective and Christie Partelow of Nederlands Dans Theater.

When I brought up that these are names you typically associate with local dance institutions such as Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts Morado replies, “There are a lot of shiny and glitzy things in Dallas and particularly around Booker T. and so it’s very easy for that to be considered the mecca of ‘shiny dance things,’ but I think it’s really meaningful and impactful for these kids that Mark and I work with that we work in a way that is very humble and we choose to work with artists who reflect that humility.”

He adds, “What sets us apart as individuals, but also as a couple is our level of consideration and really making sure that the quality and connection is genuine. That it’s never forced and we work with artists who we truly support.”

It was through the Thriving Artist Project where Morado and Caserta meet Peugh who was at the couple’s first performance back in 2016.  “He was super complimentary and we clicked with him right away,” Morado says.

“It was such a bold and loving move for him to reach out to us,” Caserta says. “He is a smart businessman and has become a great friend.”

Mark Caserta. Photo: Matthew Caserta
The couple met via social media and began collaborating with each other soon after. They were living and working in New York City when they decided to move to Dallas to work for Christy Wolverton-Ryzman at Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano, in 2015.

The dance duo also had nothing but nice things to say about their time in the studio with the DCCD dancers. “We were super inspired by the dancers and just by that particular group that is with Dark Circles right now,” Morado says. “They have such a warm chemistry among them and the majority of them identity as gay or queer themselves, and I think particularly being in Dallas and connecting with people like that has a bit deeper of a ripple than it would in a place like New York because there is less of a demographic there for that.”

While discussing the creative process for Dregs, Morado says it was done in reverse order to what people generally consider normal. So, instead of giving the dancers specific movement phrases or specific motifs, he says they generated a lot of the movement based off of the tasks they had the dancers doing such as free writing and coming up with their own gesture movements, which they later combined into collaborative group phrases.

Morado explains, “The experience for them is very personal, and rather than giving them the details and having them form the piece around that we kind of had them form the piece and then said ‘oh that is a detail we want to put in.’” He adds, “We also made an effort to highlight each dancer individually and to not stick with one soloist. We wanted to equalize everyone and especially with a group this talented we would be short changing ourselves if we didn’t individualize the piece for them.”

For this work, DCCD has also paired with Youth First, a program of Resource Center and one of the only youth centers in the North Texas area aimed at meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth ages 12-18. The company has been teaching masterclasses for the teens which explore identity and self-expression through movement.

This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

 

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Q&A: Camille A. Brown

This weekend, the award-winning dance and theater choreographer Camille A. Brown opens the TITAS Presents season with BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.

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BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play. Photo: Christopher Duggan

Dallas — 2018 has been quite a year for Camille A. Brown whose powerful combination of storytelling and modern, African and hip-hop movements has been capturing audiences from every angle, including concert dance, on and off-Broadway, and television. Most recently, her work has been seen on NBC with the Emmy-nominated special, Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE, and also on Broadway with the 2018 Tony award-winning production, Once On This Island. Her other theater credits include A Streetcar Named DesireCabin in the Sky, Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM and Dallas Theater Center’s world premiere productions of Stagger LeeFortress of Solitude, and Bella: An American Tall Tale.

The dancing It Girl is also a four-time Princess Grace Award winner, TED Fellow, Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Audelco Award winner. Her work has been commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions, Ailey II, Philandanco!, Urban Bush Women, Ballet Memphis, and Hubbard Street II, among others.

With all these creative accolades it’s no surprise to learn that Brown has been choreographing since childhood when she would make up dances to cartoon shows. A lot of her movement is influenced by the social dances of her childhood, including hip-hop, African and step dance. She was also versed in salsa dancing and musical theatre thanks to her parent’s love of musicals and Latin social dances. Add in her point of view as a strong black female from Queens and you have the foundation of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (2015); the second part of a trilogy that her troupe Camille A. Brown & Dancers will be performing as part of TITAS Presents in Dallas Aug. 24-25.

TheaterJones caught up with the busy dancemaker to talk about her current success, working on Once On This Island, finding her artistic voice and what Dallas audiences can expect to see from her dancers this weekend.

TheaterJones: Most young dancers dream of becoming performers, and yet you knew you wanted to choreograph from a very young age. Dancers don’t usually come across composition classes till they reach high school age, so how did you foster your interest in creating movement growing up?

Camille A. Brown: I have always been a quiet child. My voice was small, so I got teased a lot, and it made me more self-conscious about speaking. I watched Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson videos as well as musicals (which my mom introduced me to). I would spend hours learning all the routines from videos and musical numbers. I also created movement to the opening credits of cartoons I watched. Family gatherings were opportunities to put on a show with friends and cousins. My family would support our efforts and was always a great audience.

How has your upbringing in Queens influenced your artistic choices throughout your career?

One of the first works I did was about rush hour in New York City and what happens when everyone is waiting for a delayed train. I took all of my experiences riding the subway since 13 to create six minutes of material. The work was eventually commissioned by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. My most recent work is also pulling from my experiences growing up in the city. Some of it is inspired by my neighborhood. A couple in Queens walking down the street with their isms bold and bright. The guys that play basketball outside. The hand gestures (dab) they do greeting each other.

In BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, there are moments that are inspired by relationships with my mother, grandmother, and cousin. Q85, Farmers Blvd., Guy R. Brewer, Foch Blvd, E/F train (last stop), Green Acres Mall, Rochdale Village, grandma and granddaddy’s house. We carry our stories with us and they never let us go. 

Looking back, would you still have chosen to go to college before starting your professional dance career?

Absolutely! I wasn’t ready to be a professional dancer after I graduated high school, and still wanted to learn more as a student.

How did you get involved with Once On This Island? What research did you do leading up to teaching the choreography for the show?

I had never seen OOTI, but was very intrigued by the story. I knew it was a very popular musical, which made me nervous! It’s hard stepping in as a choreographer creating material for a show that’s been done thousands of times. I got a little bit in my head about it. I knew my role as a part of the creative team was extremely important. I wanted to honor the culture of Haiti and the Caribbean islands, but also honor my choreographic voice.

People ask me what the inspiration behind the movement for the show was. Culture always tells you where to go. The challenge was to create a language that combines culture, my voice and the actor’s creative identities. I connected with an Afro-Haitian/Afro- Cuban consultant, Maxine Montilus. We had four sessions together. I told her that these sessions were not so I could implant these specific steps into the show. It was about me knowing the origins of steps so they could help to inform my choreographic choices.

The other challenge for me was the production was staged in the round and I had never choreographed anything in the round before. I was creating my latest work, ink, at the same time so I used that creative process as an opportunity to practice. It’s interesting how many projects can support one goal. I’m grateful for it all.

How have your experiences working on Broadway and TV impacted the way you think about movement for your company dancers?

I have always been interested in telling stories, but working in theater with collaborators and putting an entire show together that has music, acting, dance, set design, sound design, costume design and orchestrations has made me a better storyteller and communicator. The information that I absorbed working in theater has helped me to create my movement language and given me the tools to communicate what I want to my dancers and musicians.

Can you please talk to me about the building of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play? Is it mainly autobiographical? Is it one complete story or broken up by experiences?

BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play is the second piece of the trilogy and it reveals the complexity of carving out a self-defined identity as a black female in urban American culture. In a society where black women are often only portrayed in terms of their strength, resiliency, or trauma, this work seeks to interrogate these narratives by representing a nuanced spectrum of black womanhood in a racially and politically charged world.

Kyra Gaunt’s book, The Games That Black Girls Play, talks about the contributions of black girls to hip hop through childhood games. If we look at the mechanics of the hand clap game “numbers”, it’s highly intelligent, mathematical and musical. Social dance grounds a time and place. The body has so many stories to tell and we can see them through social dance. We can also see people’s creative identities.

There is artistry in childhood games and social dance.

I am bringing all my stories, my personal experiences of being a woman and of being black into the work. BG:LP is about my childhood. It has glimpses of the relationship I have with my sister-friends, cousin and mother.

At what point did you know you wanted to make this part of a trilogy?

After creating Mr. TOL E. RAncE, my headspace was still in the world of black identity. My mentor and dramaturge, Talvin Wilks, encouraged me to go with the flow. Three evening length pieces later!

Where do you want to go from here?

I want to stay focused, clear and keep growing. It is my goal to continue creating works for my company, become a director/choreographer for musical theater and do more TV and film. Debbie Allen is a huge inspiration. She does it all. Her body of work makes me believe that all things are possible.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

Dance News: Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden join SMU dance faculty

 

 

Desmond-Richardson.-Photo-courtesy-of-Richardson.
Desmond Richardson. Photo: Gene Schiavone

WOW! I can not believe two of the industry’s most in demand choreographers will be joining the dance faculty at Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts for the 2017-2018 school year. Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden really started the contemporary dance movement with their founding of Complexions Contemporary Ballet in 1994. The idea was to reinvent dance using a mix of methods, styles and cultures, which have lead them to create some groundbreaking dance works, including  Higher Ground (2001), Moody Booty Blues (2006), Cry Me a River (2009) and Moon Over Jupiter (2010).

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Desmond Richardson. Photo courtesy of individual.

I got to speak with Desmond back in 2013 for TITAS’ annual Command Performance, which also marked his last season of dancing on stage. I was blown away with his openness both in the interview and on stage. It’s no wonder he has been called one of the greatest dancers of his generations. His extensive dance career includes The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater and Ballet Frankfurt under the direction of William Forsythe. He has also appeared with the San Francisco Ballet, Royal Swedish Opera Ballet, Washington Ballet and many others. Desmond is a Tony-nominated actor and the first black American principal dancer of American Ballet Theatre.

Dwight Rhoden started dancing at the age of 17 and has performed with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Les Ballet Jazz De Montreal and as a principal dancers with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Under his and Richardson’s direction, Complexions has become a dance institution that is much in demand. Their need to create work that delivers a profound passion for diversity has really framed its vision and become the company’s hallmark. Rhoden is a beneficiary recipient of various honors and awards, including the New Yor Foundation for the Arts Award, The Choo San Goh Award for Choreography and The Ailey School’s Apex Award in recognition of his extensive contributes to the field of dance.

rhoden_dwight
Dwight Rhoden. Photo courtesy of individual.

I have meet both of them and I can honestly say they are the most down to earth individuals I have ever met in the dance industry. Both have strong viewers when it comes to presenting work and are very poetic with their descriptions of what they do. But, alas, I have never had the opportunity to take class with either one of them so you SMU dance students are pretty darn luckly!

I can’t watch to see the piece they set on the students!!

 

The duo will be teaching advanced ballet classes in the fall and spring and will also be choreographing a new work for the students.

 

Q&A: Desmond Richardson of Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Photo courtesy of Step on Broadway
Photo courtesy of Step on Broadway

The artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet on this year’s TITAS Command Performance and how contemporary ballet is changing the dance world.

Dallas — If you see only one dance performance this season make sure it’s TITAS Command Performance Gala. Each year TITAS brings the hottest names and companies in the dance industry together for a one-night only dance extravaganza. This year’s impressive lineup includes the mighty Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Desmond Richardson.

Known for his power and grace both on and off the stage, Richardson has been called one of the greatest dancers of his generation. His extensive dance career includes The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theater and Ballet Frankfurt under the direction of William Forsythe. He has also appeared with the San Francisco Ballet, Royal Swedish Opera Ballet, Washington Ballet and many others.

In 1998, Richardson joined the premiere cast of the Broadway Musical Fosse for which he received a 1999 Tony Award Nomination. Richardson is also the co-founder and artistic director of the widely-popular Complexions Contemporary Ballet, currently in its 19th season.

TheaterJones asks Desmond Richardson about participating in this year’s Command Performance, his plans for the future and the impact contemporary ballet is making on the dance industry today.

The TITAS Command Performance takes place March 2, 2013 at 7 p.m. at the Winspear Opera House in Dallas.

TheaterJones: You and TITAS have quite a history together. Can you tell me about it?

Desmond Richardson: I was one of the first performers to perform with TITAS back when it started. Charles Santos had invited me some years ago and it has been great to continue that relationship and see how the organization has grown. It’s really fantastic.

So, this is not your first time participating in the Command Performance?

No, I have done this quite a few times.

What do you enjoy most about the Command Performance?

Well, Charles always brings a variety of artists together which gives us the opportunity to see one another because we don’t also get the opportunity to see one another’s performances. So, it’s nice to actually be in the same room with other formidable dancers and dance artists. And because I have been doing this gala from the beginning and I am currently transitioning away from the stage this is also a nice way for me to culminate my ending.

So, you are stepping away from the performing side of the industry?

I’m definitely going to perform, but not in the concert dance capacity. Of course I’ll still be one of the artistic directors of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, but for my performing career I want to research some other things. So, this year is really a culminating year for me.

Can you tell me a little bit about the pieces you will be appearing in at the Command Performance?

I’m dancing two pas de deux with New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan. The first is called Charter choreographed by Complexions co-founder Dwight Rhoden with music by Nicholas Payton; and the other is from a Christopher Wheeldon ballet called After the Rain with music by Arvo Pärt. Both are pretty contemporary in style.

Is there a particular dance style that you feel most comfortable in?

Photo: Nina Alovert
Photo: Nina Alovert

Well, I would say I am pretty comfortable in all genres because I have trained in many different styles. I started out as a hip hop dancer and then I went into classical ballet where I have been a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey, American Ballet Theater and Frankfurt Ballet in Germany. I have also gone to Broadway and was Tony-nominated for my role in Fosse. So, for me it varies. If I can add my experience to whatever I am learning at the time that is always a plus for me. I love growing in that way and I love breathing life into other choreographer’s work.

Was it difficult making the transition to Broadway?

Not really and the reason why is because I had already been trained in so many different styles. The only challenge was learning how to sing and dance, but I tried to stay abreast of it with my acting and vocal classes.

To what do you attribute Complexions Contemporary Ballets success?

Well we are celebrating our 19th season at the moment and will be celebrating our 20th anniversary come January 2014. People say that Dwight Rhoden is the dancer’s choreographer because he really challenges dancers and helps them get to a new point in their journey. It happened to me and I have been his muse for almost 20 years. Dancers don’t look the same when they work with him and I’m not just being bias. Not that they didn’t look amazing before, but they always look better and I think it’s because of the feeling and dynamics in his choreography. So, I would attribute our success to the dynamisms in his choreography and what he asks of the artists in front of him.

And perhaps what I offer is making sure the audience can feel what we are feeling. Many dancers that come to work with us are faced with the challenge of presenting their heart, soul, passion and individuality while also supporting your brand all at the same time.

How do you and Dwight balance the duties of running a company?

Well, it used to be where I was just the muse and he would choreograph all the work on me and then we would teach it to everybody. Now he has many muses in the company which is so fantastic. So, I have taken on more of a development part in the company where I am raising funds and things like that. I have pretty much always been doing that, but now I am doing it even more and it’s great. Now I can also be more of an artistic advisor to the company dancers. It really is important that they not only see me perform, but also be able to talk to me about their artistic approach and what they are doing with their work.

What qualities do you look for in a dancer?

I definitely look for sound technique and that’s a sound technique in any form that you have. Obviously we would like it in ballet because ballet is the form of most dance. And if you have a good form of ballet you can pretty much dance anywhere because you have to know your body. We also look for dancers who are not impeded by their technique yet they let their technique literate them and with that they are able to be susceptible to all different types of movement. We also look for strong personalities and people who are open and nice to work with.

Do you have any advice for the next generation of dancers?

My advice is just to evolve your passion. Without passion there’s nothing really. It just can’t be about technique. It has to be about why you are actually dancing. Think back to the first time you were inspired. For me, this whole dancing things is about connection and it’s about communication through that connection to the audience. People want to be moved when they come to the theater.

How is contemporary ballet changing the scope of the dance industry today?

When we first started Complexions everyone was saying oh you are mixing all these different styles, but actually dance is dance is dance. And I am so glad that line is blurred and becoming even more blurred because it is necessary. A lot of choreographers are seeing the benefits of combining classicism and contemporary. And better classical dancers are the ones that can use their back, round their spines and pull of center. It’s all about that fusion of ballet and contemporary and I love seeing amazing ballet dancers performing contemporary works. And that’s actually where Dwight really soars because he is classically trained, but he totally understands all different types of movement.

Did you enjoy your experience on season 9 of So You Think You Can Dance and how are shows like this changing the way we look at dance?

Because Dwight and I come from the commercial side it has been a great experience for us each time we have come on the show. And the support Nigel [Lythgoe] gives us is really fantastic. I think it’s definitely a win-win for everybody in the dance world. I mean, two hours of dance on a major network. When has that been done? For me, it just exposes dance to the masses even more so. When the show started it was just doing the commercial side of dance, but now the show is representing the classical side with dancers like Chehon and Eliana. These classically trained dancers won the show because they were that diverse. How cool is that!

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.