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Get in step with touring dance company

Dance Collective welcomes group for classes, show

Wheat Williams

Whatzup Features Writer

Published April 27, 2022

The Fort Wayne Dance Collective and Embassy Theatre are bringing the world-renowned, New York-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet to Fort Wayne for one performance Wednesday, May 4, which culminates a three-day residency of dance education.

More than a performance, it’s the resumption of a guest artist residency that has brought together Fort Wayne’s dancers and fans annually since 1989. Each year has featured a different dance company of national prominence.

Bringing Complexions to Fort Wayne is a first, and it’s also the first residency in the city since 2019.

Complexions’ full company will perform two pieces: “Woke” to the music of Kendrick Lamar and “Love Rocks” to the music of Lenny Kravitz.

“Woke” is described as a physical reaction to the daily news, a bold and dynamic socially conscious one-act ballet that examines humanity in conjunction with the political climate. “Love Rocks” has been called a fun, thrilling, and moving piece.

‘Challenging Topics’

Founded in 1994 by Dwight Roden and Desmond Richardson, Complexions has reinvented dance through a combination of methods, styles, and cultures, combining classical ballet with many other forms of dance, emphasizing diversity and inclusion.

Roden introduced “Love Rocks” some time ago, saying: “Our world today is in need of love more than ever. As human beings, we are inevitably flawed creatures that struggle to unify on many levels. Our passions, individual ideas, and beliefs challenge us daily. The need for compassion, empathy, and understanding as people in our ever-evolving world has become paramount. Our future depends on it!”

When Whatzup asked Fort Waynce Dance Collective Artistic Director Mandie Kolkman why Complexions is performing these two pieces, she said, “We hand-selected these pieces for our community. This is a special show curated for Fort Wayne.

“Sometimes when you see the word ‘ballet,’ it can be intimidating,” she added. “The nice thing about contemporary dance is that it’s very relatable. With pieces performed to hip-hop and rock music, we’re taking that relatability a step further. Maybe our youth hasn’t been exposed to contemporary ballet, but they know these genres of music. There’s going to be a level of understanding of this art form that we think is going to be really cool and exciting.”

Fort Wayne Dance Collective Executive Director Lee Rainboth is eager to introduce the show to the city.

“It’s going to be very emotional, but also celebrating the beauty of the human form and how it moves, he said. “There will be challenging topics addressed through the dance, but done in an earthy, beautiful, and also celebratory way. People will be able to experience the range of emotions through the performance, and to see some artists that are exceptionally talented and exceptionally skilled at what they do performing incredible art.”

Master Classes

Before the performance, principal performers of Complexions will host a pair of $25 master classes, addressing dancers of all ability levels.

A beginning-intermediate class will be held at 6 p.m. Monday, May 2, and an intermediate-advanced class will be held at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 3

As Whatzup has written many times over the years, Fort Wayne has an outstanding dance community, and Kolkman can’t contain her enthusiasm.

In addition to the Dance Collective, which is a performing and touring company as well as an educational outreach, Kolkman said, “We have schools like Project Ballet, who provide wonderful education for our youth who want to go into careers of dance. Fort Wayne Ballet is our professional ballet company. We have Mikautadze Dance Theatre, our professional modern dance company. To be a city of our size and have that amount of companies in diverse movement arts is just phenomenal.

“Through the master classes, we can provide opportunities for the companies and the schools that I mentioned, as well as our collegiate programs in dance, for students to be able to put this on their resumes. We feel proud about what we’re doing.

“We also have a beginner-intermediate class,” she added. “You don’t need any dance training to come out and try this. We really hope to engage new people in the arts this way. There’s one more aspect: The mission of the Fort Wayne Dance Collective is to serve people of all ages and abilities. So we have had conversations with Complexions, to let them know that some of the students might be neuro-diverse or have a physical disability. When we’re teaching the class, we’re teaching to all abilities, and to make it as inclusive as possible.”

Welcoming Environment

And getting as many people engaged as possible is key for the Dance Collective, even if prospective dancers don’t know it.

“We provide opportunities for people who may not realize that opportunities exist for them,” Kolkman said. “We use movement as a tool for healing, and for processing, and for strengthening, and for moving forward. When we go into to Fort Wayne Community Schools or East Allen County Schools, we see students who are struggling. We give them opportunities for leadership and self-expression.

“One of the things that we’re hoping to do through this residency is take everything that we do and bring it to the next level. If you’re enjoying what you’re doing in the dance program, this is an opportunity that you can pursue later in life as your career.

“In particular, Complexions is extremely diverse in who is presented on the stage,” she added. “You have very muscular bodies, where sometimes in classical ballet you see stick-thin bodies, and people who don’t necessarily look like your average person. And then also by diverse, I mean backgrounds and ethnicities. There again is that ‘relatability factor’ that I keep talking about, that our students will see themselves in these professional dancers.”

Benefits of Dance

And Kolkman also hopes all the benefits that come through dance don’t go un pnoticed.

“Not only is there a benefit by watching it, there’s scientific proof that there are huge benefits from participating in the movement arts,” she said. “We’re hoping that people will partake in and further their understanding of how the movement arts can benefit them.”


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