Technique: Dwight Rhoden & Desmond Richardson

Photo by Kyle Froman

Redefining the classical pas de deux, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson push partnering to new limits. Swooping lifts, twisting limbs and gravity-defying balances have become signatures of their company's style, as their dancers carve through space with sculpted and rubber-band–like bodies. The movement fuses ballet with modern, jazz, street and social dancing—a composite of Rhoden's and Richardson's varied dance backgrounds. Since founding Complexions Contemporary Ballet 16 years ago, Rhoden and Richardson have developed a technique that prepares dancers for Rhoden's dynamic and physically demanding choreo- graphy. This summer at the DANY Studios in Manhattan, 170 students attended Complexions' three-week summer dance intensive where they explored the concepts of weight, momentum and counterbalance, cornerstones of contemporary partnering.

“Partnering today is not just about lifting the girl," Rhoden says. “We want to see both dancers extend as far as they can in two directions. Our style is about creating wide, expansive movement."

In their class, partnering explorations start at the barre. From pliés to grands battements, Rhoden and Richardson give every exercise twice—first classically upright, then using the torso, rib cage and hips to pull off-center. Holding the barre, students learn how to move through extreme positions and use their own weight to counter and balance those positions. “The concepts translate to the center," says Rhoden, “then, when performing choreography, dancers can go even further."

Here, Rhoden and Richardson demonstrate a counterbalanced partnering move with summer intensive students Amanda McCormick and Jeffrey Duffy.

Dwight Rhoden performed with Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal, and was a principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He is Complexions Contemporary Ballet's resident choreographer and has created work for many companies, including Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Joffrey Ballet, Miami City Ballet and Philadanco. Rhoden has also choreographed for Fox's “So You Think You Can Dance" and has served as an artist-in-residence at New York University, Juilliard and the University of Mississippi.

Desmond Richardson was principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for eight years and principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, originating the role of Othello in Lar Lubovitch's production. He's performed with the San Francisco Ballet and Ballet Frankfurt in Germany, and his Broadway credits include Fosse (for which he received a TONY nomination) and Twyla Tharp's Movin' Out. Recently, Richardson joined the faculty of The PULSE on Tour convention. In 2007, he received the Dance Magazine Award.

Amanda McCormick, 21, is a senior at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, and Jeffrey Duffy, 18, is a senior at Talent Unlimited High School in Manhattan. Both were Division 3 students during the Complexions Contemporary Ballet summer intensive.

Teaching Tips
Justin Boccitto teaches a hybrid class. Photo courtesy Boccitto

Just as teachers were getting comfortable with teaching virtual classes, many studios are adding an extra challenge into the mix: in-person students learning alongside virtual students. Such hybrid classes are meant to keep class sizes down and to give students options to take class however they're comfortable.

But dividing your attention between virtual students and masked and socially distant in-person students—and giving them each a class that meets their needs—is no easy feat.

Dance Teacher asked four teachers what they've learned so far.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
All photos by Ryan Heffington

"Annnnnnnd—we're back!"

Ryan Heffington is kneeling in front of his iPhone, looking directly into the camera, smiling behind his bushy mustache. He's in his house in the desert near Joshua Tree, California, phone propped on the floor so it stays steady, his bright shorty shorts, tank top and multiple necklaces in full view. Music is already playing—imagine you're at a club—and soon he's swaying and bouncing from side to side, the beat infusing his bones.

Keep reading... Show less
Teachers Trending
Evelyn Cisneros-Legate. Photo by Beau Pearson, Courtesy Ballet West

Evelyn Cisneros-Legate is bringing her hard-earned expertise to Ballet West. The former San Francisco Ballet star is taking over all four campuses of The Frederick Quinney Lawson Ballet West Academy as the school's new director.

Cisneros-Legate, whose mother put her in ballet classes in an attempt to help her overcome her shyness, trained at the San Francisco Ballet School and School of American Ballet before joining San Francisco Ballet as a full company member in 1977. She danced with the company for 23 years, breaking barriers as the first Mexican American to become a principal dancer in the U.S., and has graced the cover of Dance Magazine no fewer than three times.

As an educator, Cisneros-Legate has served as ballet coordinator at San Francisco Ballet, principal of Boston Ballet School's North Shore Studio and artistic director of after-school programming at the National Dance Institute (NDI). Dance Teacher spoke with her about her new position, her plans for the academy and leading in the time of COVID-19.

Keep reading... Show less

Get Dance Business Weekly in your inbox

Sign Up Used in accordance with our Privacy Policy.