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(Photograph by Andrea Mohin, NYTimes)
Desmond Richardson and S. Epatha Merkerson
 in I Will Not Be Broken
 

   
       
 

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

   
 

Balmy Days!

   

 

  

 

On November 18 at the Joyce, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's wonderfully pared down I Will Not Be Broken (World Premiere) overshadowed the rest of the program, including the overly busy Rise which is set to music by U2.   Performed by three dancers (Desmond Richardson, Sabra Perry and Juan Rodriguez) and actress/singer S. Epatha Merkerson with the simplest of sets and costumes, the piece brought down the house.

I Will Not Be Broken begins with Merkerson singing the African-American spiritual 'Balm in Gilead': 
There is a balm in Gilead 
To make the wounded whole 
There is a balm in Gilead 
To heal the sin-sick soul 

As she sings, Desmond Richardson, the company's Founding Artistic Director and current Artist-in-Residence, performs a powerful solo at the other end of the stage. Sitting on a plain wooden bench he slowly rises, twists, turns and falls to the ground with intense passion.

Merkerson's deep, rich voice amplifies as she repeats:
Sometimes I feel discouraged 
And think my work's in vain 
But then the Holy Spirit 
Revives my soul again 

Richardson strains with such force, puts so much energy into each individual move, and displays so much passion that Merkerson's words come alive with his every movement.  He falls to the ground, face down, fist clenched.  At the same time, Perry and Rodriguez perform a passionate duet.

Nearing the end of Gilead, Merkerson's voice softens.  She inflects each phrase with conviction, almost conversing with her audience: 
If you can't preach like Peter 
If you can't pray like Paul 
Just tell the love of Jesus 
And say He died for all

Merkerson then segues into Alfred A. Duckett's 'Sonnet,' 'Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,' 'Get Up, Blues,' and 'People Get Ready,' while Richardson finishes his superb solo.  A dancing human gyroscope, his muscles glint with sweat - he has given everything of himself.  For a brief moment, the explosive fusion of dance and song speaks only of triumph.

 

See: Complexions, at the Joyce through Nov. 30 

Discover: Complexions Contemporary Ballet

 

Tags:  dance      

 

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