Complexions: More Than Face Value

What is it about human sexuality that society has deemed so taboo?

This is the question I was left with after my experience at the Joyce Theatre. The performance- as with many of our outings in this class- was my first experience with contemporary ballet. Even with prior research done, I expected something a little more similar to my prior conception of ballet; that is, a performance involving tutus, classical music, and stern faced Russian dancers. What I got instead was a series of stunning dances that proved a stark commentary on human nature.

The first thing (and perhaps the most important thing) that separates contemporary ballet from traditional is the fact that the dancers relied on a rhythm that was set apart from the beat of the music being played. This syncopated effect separated the audience and the dancers; what I expected to happen upon hearing the music wasn’t necessarily reflective of their movements. That, of course, says something about life: people behave in strange and mysterious ways, and more often than not we ascribe to a ‘c’est la vie’ mentality instead of putting forth the effort necessary to unravel our fellow man’s complexities.

Another interesting thing that I noticed was a contrast between the male and female dancers. Often in dance, one can note a specific adherence to traditional gender roles. The women are all delicate, fragile, beautiful. Men are all strong, powerful, gritty. In this ballet, there was an interesting absence of this. All dancers wore the same outfit. effectively de-sexualizing the women and making the men seem a little more vulnerable. Even though some parts of the dances seemed a little male-centric, there was never a time when a female dancer was put in a subservient position. The push-pull of power in between both genders is something to be noted and applauded.

Most of all, this ballet was sensual. This is the part where most people confess their discomfort. This is the part where most people shy away from the troupe of half naked, athletic men and women leaping around on stage to a rhythm only they can hear. My question to you is: why? Complexions offers their audience a glimpse into a world that we all know exists yet few choose to recognize. It is a world of incredible power and terrible weakness, a world of sweat and tears and sexy androgyny.

Historically, people have a tendency to hate what they don’t understand.

Destroy the idea that you need to be at ease with something to love it.