Complexions Contemporary Ballet performs ‘Love Rocks’ to the music of Lenny Kravitz

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to The Aspen Times
Jillian Davis, Khayr Muhammad in 'Love Rocks.'
Justin Chao/Courtesy photo

From the day Complexions Contemporary Ballet premiered on June 10, 1994, the innovative company has been selling out shows. Last year, its sold-out tribute to David Bowie captivated Aspen audiences, and on Saturday, it performs “Love Rocks,” set to the music of Lenny Kravitz.

Co-founders Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden know Kravitz well, and during the pandemic, it seemed only natural to choreograph a performance to his music, which, at its core, revolves around love and unity. Nine songs characterize “Love Rocks,” ending with “Here to Love,” which he also provided for the United Nations’ Fight Racism campaign.

Though each song portrays love differently, Richardson said they are all very transformative.

“The dancers express (Kravitz’) sentiment and theme. We all know what love is and how to treat each other well,” he said. “If we take care of one another, we will live a better life.”

Though Kravitz hasn’t seen the performance live, he watched it through video and said he loved it and congratulated all of the dancers, Richardson said.

“Love Rocks” seamlessly dovetails the intention of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, launched to emphasize inclusivity.

“Diversity — ethnically, musically, and through dance idioms — is something we do very well (along with) allowing dancers to express their voice,” Richardson said. “We’re very bold. There are no holds barred. It’s not being afraid to entertain and provoke … our take on dance is like no other company.”

The company radiates the energy of love, humanity, and soul in a unique and powerful way.

In its early days, he acted a bit like a muse for Rhoden, due to the plethora of his dance experience. He received scholarships to study under dance-world greats, like Walter Raines, Robert Christopher, Denise Jefferson, Penny Frank, and Ronald Brown; received a merit scholarship to the Internationale Akademie des Tanzes in Köln, Germany; and received the Presidential Scholar Award for the Arts in 1986 from YoungArts. He became a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s main company from 1987 to 1994 before launching Complexions Contemporary Ballet and diverging from “the hetero-normative of Black masculinity of the ‘Soul’ aesthetic that was cultivated in companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater … (through Complexions’) emphasis on gender ambivalence and the plurality of race, sexuality, and dance formality,” according to Richardson’s bio.

He also joined the Frankfurt Ballet in 1994 and the American Ballet Theatre in 1997. A year later, he performed in Broadway’s “Fosse,” garnering a Tony Award nomination in 1999. In addition to other Broadway musicals, he has been a guest artist with several world-renowned companies and appeared on television as a celebrity performer and choreographer.

“I always felt it (all) helped me compartmentalize the music and dig from where I needed to dig from,” he said, adding that his and Rhoden’s passion for dance “is very clear in all of our dancers.”

If you go…

What: Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s ‘Love Rocks,’ presented by Aspen Santa Fe Ballet

When: 8 p.m., Sept. 23

Where: Aspen District Theater

Tickets: $36-$114

More info:

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