Contemporary ballet

Maya Angelou in dance: How Complexions Contemporary Ballet will set poetry in motion

Complexions Contemporary Ballet is known for tackling current social issues through music and movement, and the New York-based company’s next three nights in Los Angeles are no exception, especially a piece inspired by Maya Angelou .

The Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center series is set to host Complexions when it returns to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Friday through Sunday. The company, which has been dubbed “America’s Original Multicultural Dance Company,” will present the West Coast premiere of “Imprint/Maya,” celebrating Angelou during National Poetry Month.

“This is our third time at the Music Center,” said Complexions founder and co-artistic director Desmond Richardson. “We are surprised and honored by the public who continue to come to see us.”

The company presents a multicultural cast of 14 dancers trained in both classical and contemporary dance who will perform six pieces. “Imprint/Maya” was choreographed by Complexions co-artistic director Dwight Rhoden, and Richardson dances to it. The music is by David Rozenblatt, a composer who plays percussion for Barry Manilow. It is set to the words of Angelou.

“Dr. Angelou’s words cross all kinds of barriers. People can take his words and see what they mean to them,” Richardson said. “His work bridges different genders and ethnicities. It permeates the soul. It’s heartbreaking and it’s very narrative.

Complexions is celebrating its 21st season, although Richardson said he’s worked with Rhoden for even longer than that.

“It’s nice to have a choreographer who understands you,” Richardson said. “His dances are like paintings by Salvador Dali. There are a lot of different movements going on at the same time, and what I see may not be the same as what you see.

FULL COVERAGE: Spring 2016 Arts Preview | Exhibitions | Theater | Dance | Pop music | Books

Since its creation, the mandate of Complexions has always been to highlight diversity, in its performers and its subjects. Today, Richardson said, he’s happy to see that there’s been “an increase in adapting and embracing diversity” in the dance community.

“At auditions, we look for dancers who have a unique character and who happen to be Japanese and black or German and Chinese because that’s where America is right now,” Richardson said. “It is these origins that constitute our United States. That’s the beauty of it all – we’re all here now.


Dyed Contemporary Ballet

Where: Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave. THE

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: From $34

For further information: (213) 972-8555,

Twitter: @jessicagelt