By Dillon Heyck
1 March 2019
Dwight Rhoden’s galvanizing protest rally of a ballet, WOKE, premiered at The Joyce Theater with his company Complexions Contemporary Ballet. The mere possibility that ballet dancers could carry the laborious weight of topical issues while wearing pointe shoes, without devolving into obscure, apolitical abstraction, might be met with an arched-eyebrow. Dwight Rhoden takes on just this task by answering the call of rap, hip-hop, electronic pop, and R&B back with neoclassical phrases of piano music that his dancers match in vivacity and poise. WOKE is a work that will admit many responses and interpretations, but one of its undaunted objectives is to realize a vocabulary of movement that bridges popular music with arguably the most conservative form of dance.
It’s first worth noting Rhoden’s decision to title his choreography after a word tossed around enough for some to say it’s been hijacked by superficial, white cosmopolitanism in a lazy effort to appear politically conscious. Now I hear “woke” used more ironically than not and one critic flatly stated the word is dead. Rhoden is likely aware of this. And WOKE may be an attempt to reinvigorate the word with the uplifting hope and transcendency it once carried. It would be easy for a critic to level at the politics of WOKE, but how could anyone ignore the dancers’ craftsmanship?
Read the full article on Hyperallergic.