Complexions Contemporary Ballet performs April 15 through 17 at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
For people who follow dance, the name Desmond Richardson immediately resonates. Whether you are a dancer or simply love to watch, Richardson has indelibly made his mark in the dance community. Co-Artistic Directors and founders Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden are bringing Complexions Contemporary Ballet to Los Angeles April 15 through 17 at the Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.
As an avid fan of dance, when given an opportunity to speak with Richardson, you jump at the chance. We talk about his early years as a “dancer,” which is purposely put in quotation marks.
Richardson chuckles to himself, “I came into my audition [at New York’s High School of Performing Arts, the Fame school] with a three-piece green suit on and patent leather shoes! They thought, ‘He’s like Honi Coles and going to tap it out,’ and I was like, ‘Um no, I don’t tap or even know what that is.’ Ha.”
Needless to say, his soon-to-be teachers made him change into more appropriate attire, sweatpants and a T-shirt, to dance his hip-hop routine to.
Reflecting on his past, he says, “I didn’t know any better, and that I wanted to do it. I’d rather go big and wrong, than small and right.”
After his teachers had a few real belly laughs thinking he was going to “kill himself,” they admitted him into the school with a full scholarship after witnessing his raw talent, true passion for dance and quick ability to pick up choreography.
That dynamic talent and determination paid off in the end. He was later accepted into Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1987, made Lead Dancer by 1992 and then, with the advice of Ailey himself, started his own dance company with choreographer Dwight Rhoden in 1994. Talk about an insane trajectory.
“Dwight was always choreographing for our friends from other dance companies, so Ailey said, ‘Why don’t you and Dwight [who had also danced for Ailey] put it all together and put on a show,’ which was the impetus for it all,” notes Richardson.
Their new company didn’t have a name up until the night before the first performance, which they were still calling a workshop.
“One of the dancer’s fathers came in and said, ‘Wow, everyone is so complex, all the different people,’ and Dwight and I were like, ‘That’s it!’ Complexions was born.”
Initially the company was called a Concept In Dance, but later the name evolved to embody what they felt they wanted to incorporate. A contemporary ballet company that fused modern, classical, contemporary and hip-hop into all of their movements.
“Everyone was very seasoned, and we had about 20 mature artists from so many other companies, using this avenue to say what they wanted to in their movement and artistry,” Richardson continues. “Now over the years as we have progressed, we’re using younger dancers who aren’t coming with as much seasoning and maturity, but with great technical prowess to develop them as artists.”
Hearing the enthusiasm in his voice talking about the company’s young dancers is refreshing.
“Connection is what moves people. An audience doesn’t just want to see tricks, but movement from a real place, and I look for uniqueness and that ‘it’ factor,” says Richardson.
He is excited about bringing Complexions to Los Angeles, debuting a piece dedicated to Maya Angelou.
“Dwight heard what composer David Rozenblatt had created for this piece and was inspired, saying ‘He saw me all over it, if I was up for dancing,’ which I was.”
He speaks with reverence in regards to his Co-Artistic Director, “Dwight really does have this amazing range which is his gift, and dancers and artists, myself included, are excited to get to work with him.”
Complexions is only going to be in Los Angeles for a short time, from April 15 through 17, with three shows ranging in music for Stevie Wonder to gospel prose.
Richardson offers this simple piece of advice about dance, “Go out and try it by starting with something really fun. Give yourself access to your body through dance, which is what it is all about!”
For tickets and more information, visit musiccenter.org.