To create “Star Dust”, a love letter to david bowie, choreographer Dwight Rhoden immersed himself in the music of the man. He listened at home, in the car, at the gym as he sifted through decades of songs, personalities and styles to select just a fraction of the works for the Complexes Contemporary Ballets production.
“The hardest part of what I had to do was choose the tracklist when I wanted to use everything I had heard and loved,” Rhoden said.
The choreographer’s work on the ballet began long before Bowie’s death on January 10, 2016. Bowie’s music had long been a soundtrack in Rhoden’s life and he knew he wanted to create a ballet to that sound, but that he started in earnest just before Bowie’s death was a coincidence, he said.
“It really was,” he said. “I had wanted to do something with his music for years.” The work was commissioned in early spring 2016, announced in May, with its June 18, 2016 premiere at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Detroit.
Still, the ballet features “Lazarus” from the “Blackstar” album, which was released just two days before Bowie’s death, along with early hits, such as the radio hit “Changes” and the upbeat dance number, ” Modern Love”. It ranges from the morose “Spacy Oddity” to the poetic “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide”.
Rock and ballet are nothing new to Rhoden, who has set dancers in motion to the music of U2, Stevie Wonder and even Metallica.
“When I do things with iconic people, like David Bowie, I feel a responsibility to represent him in a new way, to pay homage to what’s inside the music,” he said. -he declares.
Why this affinity for Bowie?
“I was extremely drawn to his work, to his incredible creativity,” he said. “He just morphed and changed all the time and as a young man trying to find his way, I think I’ve always been drawn to the colorful characters of that guy. I found him fascinating and I probably wanted to be him.
“The most remarkable part for me was that he was so brave,” Rhoden said. “He really wasn’t afraid to create and it seemed to start even his younger years.”
“I don’t think you’ll see another Bowie,” he said. “It pays homage to his legacy as an artist who crossed so many borders and genres.
“So many people loved him and loved his work,” Rhoden said. “He left an imprint on a lot of people’s lives, I think in his music, in his different personalities.
To transform this music into a captured ballet, he immersed himself in sound.
“I really listened to music constantly, over and over again, countless times,” he said. “It conjured up images in my head and it gave me ideas of movement.”
Rhoden describes the ballet as very physical, a “rock opera-style production”, with dancers sometimes embodying Bowie, lip-syncing and performing directly in front of the audience. Some pieces may be an interpretation of the music, some of Bowie’s vocal style.
“He certainly touched on so many different dynamics in his music,” he said. “There would be some really really dramatic dark songs and then some nice happy songs, so it was great to be able to revisit all of these different colors in one track.”
Yet, he noted, these are his interpretations “because everyone will hear and feel something different when they hear Bowie.”
“For those who may not have been Bowie fans, I hope they leave with my message that we are Bowie and Bowie is all of us,” Rhoden said. “His work has truly reached far beyond any particular class or race or age group or even generation. His music will live on for a very long time.”
Rhoden, who formed Complexions in 1994 with dancer Desmond Richardson, dreams of one day creating a full ballet set to Bowie’s music, but for now his 40-minute tribute should do the trick.
“It’s a one-act work at this point,” Rhoden said. “In my mind, there is more.”
“Star Dust” is the featured third act of a three-act dance party that Rhoden describes as a “very varied program”. The evening of classical dance and modern numbers with, for example, Rhoden’s solo for Richardson, “Imprint/Maya”, on the poetry of the Mayas Angelou as well as “Ballad Unto”, a classical ballet on Bach.
What: A New Orleans Ballet Association presentation of Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s three-act dance program, which includes “Star Dust,” a “love note” to David Bowie, with a soundtrack of nine hits, including “Changes” , “Heroes”, “Let’s Dance” and “Modern Love” by artistic director Dwight Rhoden. Costumes by Christine Darch, lighting by Michael Korsch.
When: April 22 at 8 p.m.
Or: Mahalia Jackson Theater, 1419 Basin St.
Tickets: $44 to $129. Only single tickets are now available on NOBADance.com.