Dyed Contemporary Ballet, a company founded in 1994 by Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson, achieved what for many midsize companies remains impossible: it lasted. But for a troupe named for the multicultural makeup of its dancers, it remains sadly bland. Where diversity also counts – in its choreography – is where this company fails. Regardless of the mood or the music, a pattern often repeats itself in Mr. Rhoden’s pieces: after a running start, a dancer glides across the stage, strikes an assertive pose, then – as if trapped in a force field – changes position by touching a hip. or throw a pirouette before falling back on the wings.
It is not dance for the stage, but for the camera; Mr. Rhoden choreographs in close-ups. On Tuesday, Complexions returned to the Joyce Theater with the first of three programs, including a premiere, featuring songs by Metallica. With the exception of William Forsythe’s ‘Approximate Sonata’, the dances are all by Mr. Rhoden, including ‘Ballad Unto…’, set to Bach and originally choreographed for the Tulsa Ballet. A work for 14 dancers who fade in and out under Michael Korsch’s rosy lighting, this ballet, an exploration of the facets of love, echoes Mr. Rhoden’s narrow choreographic palette with several pas de deux. Interspersed between the group sections, they are inspired by the neo-classical aesthetic of George Balanchine, but too often look like a parody.
Yet there is the dance of Ashley Mayeux, whose silky line and elegance set her apart. In “Cryin’ to Cry Out,” danced to Jimmy Scott, she performs a pas de deux with Andrew Brader, whose stellar pairing magnifies the details, giving their couple a softness and naturalness. It was the only time Mr. Rhoden seemed to rise above his usual impulses and deliver something with a sense of humanity. In the solo “Imprint/Maya”, inspired by Maya Angelouthe dancer, again, is key: Here, veteran virtuoso Mr. Richardson remains sharp and spontaneous despite the forgettable material.
The sad part of “Strum”, set to Metallica songs, is its sweetness. Under red and yellow lights, again by Mr. Korsch, 15 dancers decked out in silver costumes by Christine Darch mimic the melodrama of lyrical rock music but never revel in it. Timothy Stickney, more maniacal than agile, appears as the main character – rushing on stage, he whips his head furiously, but it’s all just a number: he possesses little throwing power. What would be Beavis and Butthead to say? At least there was no air guitar.