News: New York’s Complexions Contemporary Ballet to relocate to Atlanta next spring

Complexions is leaving New York after 20 years.
Complexions is leaving New York after 20 years.
Complexions is leaving New York after 20 years.
Complexions is leaving New York after 20 years.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet is leaving New York and moving to Atlanta. The company considered several other cities including San Diego, Los Angeles and Houston, but decided Atlanta was the best choice. 

According to Atlanta-based board member Su Longman, Complexions is planning a fundraising event in the fall and will perform October 8-10 at The Arena at Gwinnett Center. The 16-member company is in talks with Woodruff Arts Center about performance space and will launch its official, inaugural season in metro Atlanta in the spring of 2016. 

Complexions is known for its athletic, push-it-to-the-max style and its crowd-pleasing choreography. Longman expects the company will be well received in Atlanta. “It is truly a multiethnic dance troupe that reflects different backgrounds,” she said in a recent phone interview. “So many cultures are represented here; I think the company will be a perfect fit.”

Su Longman
Su Longman

Longman is one of three Atlantans who have joined the ensemble’s board; the others are Tony Conway, founder of Legendary Events, and arts supporter Marlene Alexander.

Former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater principals Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson founded Complexions 20 years ago and are the ensemble’s artistic directors. Chatting on the phone from New York, Rhoden said they wanted to move to a “less saturated” dance community. 

Like Longman, he believes Atlanta is a good fit for Complexions. “We are multicultural through and through and are truly a melting pot of styles,” he says. “We have a classical base, but you’ll see the vernacular of hip hop sometimes. We are not afraid to entertain but we also go deep. It’s hard to put us in a box.” 

Complexions employs its dancers for 35 weeks a year and tours nationally and internationally for more than 20 of those weeks. The dancers performed in Columbus and Augusta recently, but Rhoden can barely remember when they were last in Atlanta. “It was when we first started out, a small performance at Clark University,” he says. 

Every November for the last several years the company has presented a two-week season at the Joyce Theater in New York and will continue doing so. The New York critics haven’t been kind, but Rhoden is adamant that negative reviews were not a consideration in their decision to move south. He hopes they can do more than one season a year in Atlanta, although “there are still a lot of unknowns.” 

Another reason for the move is studio space. Complexions has never had its own space for classes and rehearsals. “We’ve been nomadic for 20 years,” says Rhoden. “The dream is for us to have our own location and our own school in Atlanta. We want to have a training ground for the next generation of performers. We hope to bring in dancers from all over the world. It’s a big dream and I believe it’s achievable.”

Currently the ensemble runs summer intensives for young dancers in New York, Detroit and Dallas and a winter intensive in New York. The company will continue offering two intensives each year in New York and is maintaining a small office of four employees in the city. Rhoden hopes to start an intensive in Atlanta and at least two more cities, including Los Angeles. “Education is a huge part of what Complexions is about,” he says. 

“Our intention is to get into the fabric of the dance community in Atlanta,” he adds, “and hopefully add something new to it.”

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