White Bird dance season ends on a giant leap
Dance promoter White Bird's final show of the season is another pop-infused piece of wokery by a classically trained contemporary company from New York. Like Kendrick? Dig Kravitz? This might be the show for you.
If you enjoyed seeing Dancer Theater of Harlem painting kinetic poetry to the sounds Stevie Wonder songs from the album Higher Ground last month, you will love Complexions Contemporary Ballet on Wednesday, May 25.
Complexions' 18-member troupe will dance to a mixed hip-hop medley from the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Logic, Drake, Diplo, and others. Fittingly, it is called "Woke."
"Woke" was created in 2018, before the right weaponized the word and turned it from meaning being aware of systemic prejudice to some kind of conspiratorial whining, at best narcissistic, at worst subversive of American values. The arts are still coming to terms with Black Lives Matter and the uprisings that followed the murder of George Floyd by police in 2020. Performing "Woke" adds another layer to the way it comes across in 2022. Did those extra two years date it?
Complexions bills itself as "a multicultural company known for the breathtaking mix of dance styles and athletic intensity … Complexions' primary innovation is that dance should be about removing boundaries, not reinforcing them."
The second piece is called "Love Rocks" and is performed to the music of Lenny Kravitz, the father of actress Zoë Kravitz from The Batman.
The show closes the inaugural season of the We Are One festival, which was formed to make White Bird more inclusive. As luck would have it, Complexions comes to town on the two-year anniversary of the murder of Floyd, dancing on the big stage at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall at 7:30 p.m. May 25.
Both works are choreographed by long time Complexions choreographer Dwight Rhoden, who founded the company in 1994 with Desmond Richardson.
Asked if dance can address such things as racial oppression, White Bird's Walter Jaffe told the Portland Tribune, "The company is doing a curriculum with Portland Public Schools," he said, referring to some video instruction. "'Woke' is very relevant, and the company's values are very relevant today. We don't know what downtown will be like given what happened a year ago, but we feel it's very important to bring people together to unite instead of divide. It's a small effort, but it's important for us to do something."
"It's like saying 'I'm not racist.' How can you say that?" said Paul King. "How can you say you are woke? You're never fully evolved in any of these issues. It's always changing, You always have more to learn and ways to change your own behavior."
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