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Ballet masterclass unites people of different backgrounds, levels

Complexions Contemporary Ballet member leads class for students, community

Last Wednesday, Jillian Davis of Complexions Contemporary Ballet led students and community members with mixed levels of dance experience through a ballet masterclass.

FirstWorks, a Providence-based arts organization, co-hosted the class with Artists and Scientists as Partners, a University project focused on interdisciplinary cooperation, especially between scientists and dancers.

The masterclass was one installment of the ASaP 2019 Symposium, which included several days of events focusing on “what it means for artists and scientists to be partners — where’s the overlap and where’s the disconnect and why don’t we do more things together,” said Julie Strandberg, distinguished senior lecturer in theatre arts and performance studies and founding director of dance at the University. The symposium events, which included Davis’ masterclass, aimed to build partnerships, Strandberg said. “There are people in so many silos that are all doing great things, … so we’re really trying to bring people together,” she said.

Complexions is a contemporary ballet company based in New York City, and Davis has performed with them as a company member for five years. She also teaches masterclasses several times throughout the year. The Complexions website defines the company’s mission as removing boundaries: “Whether it be the limiting traditions of a single style, period, venue, or culture, Complexions transcends them all, creating an open, continually evolving form of dance that reflects the movement of our world — and all its constituent cultures — as an interrelated whole.”

Davis described working with Complexions as “the end goal” of her career, stating that the athleticism of the dancers and fusion of styles make the company special.

Throughout the class, Davis taught poses and routines, helping the attendees of various experience levels follow along. “My intention for today is to give everybody a taste of Complexions. …It’s not just ballet or it’s not just modern, it’s a little bit of everything combined,” Davis said. She explained that one reason she enjoyed teaching masterclasses was that everyone interprets her teaching differently. “Certain things that I say will click with certain people, and maybe saying the same thing a slightly different way will click with other people,” Davis said.

The Complexions company members will perform their piece “From Bach to Bowie” at the Providence Performing Arts Center April 17, an event also hosted by FirstWorks. Kathleen Pletcher, founder and executive artistic director of FirstWorks, explained that she wanted to bring Complexions to Providence because of the nature of the company and the piece they will be performing. 

Half of “From Bach to Bowie” features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, while the other half is a tribute to David Bowie. Davis described the piece as “a celebration of music” and a celebration of Complexions’s 25th anniversary. In the second half of the piece, “we just go through a catalogue of (Bowie’s) songs from all different eras to show what kind of artist he was and how he morphed himself into different people with each of these songs,” Davis said. “And everyone loves David Bowie — you can’t go wrong with that.”



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