Bach to Bowie: On ‘pointe’ at App State


Photo Courtesy of Sharen Bradford

Grace Ficara, Reporter

Meg Paul, associate artistic director for Complexions Contemporary Ballet, cheered and awarded a standing ovation for her dancers following the first act of “STAR DUST: From Bach to Bowie.” By the second act, the rest of the crowd followed her. 

“STAR DUST: From Bach to Bowie,” is a contemporary ballet choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, featuring music from Bach, along with other classical musicians and rock icon David Bowie. This Thursday, the company performed at App State’s Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts. 

The performance starts like a traditional neo-classical ballet and then shifts into a rock ballet, Paul said.

Photo Courtesy of Sharen Bradford

When the curtain rises at the top of the first act, fog rises from the stage as bright lights cast shadows on the dancers. 

During the performance, audiences can expect to hear not only classical works, but Bowie songs like “Heroes,” “Life on Mars?” and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide,” to name just a few. 

“We have a four hour tech process, which we go through every piece, and make sure that each lighting cue is actually as it should be, and then we run the whole program before they perform the program,” Paul said.  

Since the first act is classical, and the second more contemporary, dancers have to quickly adjust to the shift in mood. 

“I think you kind of have to shift gears and know what music you are listening to and what music you are dancing to, it’s a different approach, so you have to mentally prepare for the first act and it’s a completely different preparation for the second act,” said Tatiana Melendez, who has been dancing with Complexions for four seasons now. 

During the show, audience members can see what Paul describes as the “Olympic athletes” of dance, dressed in costumes ranging from nude spandex and ballet slippers to Bowie-inspired platform boots and makeup. Not only do they dance to the music, but chosen performers lip-sync to Bowie in every performance of the second act. 

Excluding travel, the company spent one full day in Boone, and within the preparation time for the show, some members also taught master classes for App State dance students. 

As for the company themselves, their dancing is recognizable by a technique for which they have coined the shorthand, “nique,” created by co-founding artistic directors Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson. 

“It is very specifically designed to be able to help students understand the Complexions process of learning choreography, because it is all very very dense and intricate,” Paul said. She said that returning audience members are able to spot Complexion’s dancers based on “nique.” 

“I learn a lot from them. It’s good to get a different perspective,” said Olivia Haralson, senior dance minor at App State. She continued with how inspiring it was to learn from professional dancers and how master classes help build her confidence. 

Five minutes before each show begins, each member of the ballet stands in a circle in “second position,” a term used to describe dancers when they stand with their legs apart and feet facing outward, and hold hands. Paul described a quote they remind themselves of every night by famous choreographer Ulysses Dove, “There’s nothing to prove and everything to share.” 

Following the show, a Q&A session was held for members of the audience who wished to speak to cast members. When asked what they are going to do after the show, a member of the company replied, “ I am going to go eat some more, and then go to bed. Shower first, and then go to bed.”