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Contemporary, yes. Ballet? Not really, although many of the dancers have ballet pedigrees. The artistic directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson were both with the Alvin Ailey company and that’s their strongest influence, although Richardson later had a strong affiliation with American Ballet Theatre.
But the new piece choreographed by Rhoden, Chapters, a work in progress, resembles the energetic dance numbers for a Broadway musical. Rhoden makes no bones about his theatre leanings in choreographing these 16 Marvin Gaye songs, intended to be a full evening work at some time in the future. It’s a group piece with vignettes, at present not very well defined. Each sequence has a chapter title based on a song. But all the jolly hip-hop, swing dance and roustabouting, plus Rhoden’s typical yank-about pas de deux, tend to look much the same. Despite the programme’s lengthy and painstaking outline, the named characters – Actress, Stock Trader, College Dropout, Tattoo Artist and so on – are not particularly easy to identify.
The dancing is vigorously flamboyant and some characterisations, such as the ambiguous cross- dresser stalking around in high heels and shades, threading through the piece, are astutely drawn.
Works in progress are always a gamble and judging from this preview of Chapters, it might be better, unless the outline can be made clearer, to write “The End” right now.
Hissy Fits, a group workout resembling show- off time at the gym to murdered Bach (cocktail music style) was enough to bring on one such hissy fit, with the unflattering lighting adding to the general ugliness of the piece.
Taye Diggs, whose early career was in dance but is now better known for his theatre, film and TV work, choreographed the new Loose Change for Richardson to David Ryan Harris’s If I Had a Dime. Bare-chested and in tight jeans, Richardson cuts a great figure as he skips, runs, jives and flails, stretches and rolls, caught in an overhead spotlight: he is an unquestionable star. But, impressive dancer as Richardson is, the evening’s honours must go to Clifford Williams, whose purity of line, attack and theatrical flair make him a riveting stage presence.
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