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2011 News Releases

One of the world’s top modern dancers guest-teaches at Longwood

February 1, 2011

Desmond Richardson guest-teaches Longwood Company of Dancers
Desmond Richardson, who has danced to unstinting critical acclaim throughout the world, taught three two-hour classes Jan. 19-21 at Longwood.

Members of the Longwood Company of Dancers were recently guest-taught by someone who has been called "one of the great modern dancers of his time" by the New York Times.

Desmond Richardson, who has danced to unstinting critical acclaim throughout the world, taught three two-hour classes Jan. 19-21 at Longwood. He was a principal dancer with the famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for seven years, was the first African-American to join the American Ballet Theatre as a principal dancer; has performed with ballets throughout the United States and abroad, has worked in television, film and video, and has performed with Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin and Madonna. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, in New York City.

"He is definitely the most famous dancer we've brought here during my 19 years here," said Rodney Williams, director of the Longwood Company of Dancers and artist-in-residence at Longwood. "He is one of the top modern dancers in the world. He is not only nationally but internationally known. He's known all over the world; he's that powerful. And he's just a down-to-earth, well-grounded person.

"He taught the dance company students modern dance technique and choreography from the Complexions repertoire. Not all great dancers are excellent teachers, but he is. He articulates his art form and passes it along. He's an educator in addition to being a dancer and choreographer, which is a rare quality. He will be back here next year, so this is the start of something wonderful.

"I've been trying to get him here forever. I had seen him once on stage and was in a talk with him, which he remembered. That was about two years ago in Richmond, where he had come to teach a workshop. He also remembered that I had brought my kids from the City Dance Theatre (a Richmond-based company that Williams co-directs). Some of my kids from City Dance will audition for Complexions' 'Summer Intensive,' a program in which those who are selected will study for four weeks in August, culminating with a concert."

Desmond Richardson guest-teaches Longwood Company of Dancers

Some of the Longwood dance company members were familiar with Richardson through his work on the current TV show "So You Think You Can Dance," on the FOX network. "He is one of the choreographers for the show, and he has appeared on the show and will be back next season," Williams said, adding that Richardson has appeared with the Richmond Ballet.

Richardson, who started out as a street dancer while growing up in the Queens borough of New York, has mastered a wide range of dance forms including classical, modern, and contemporary. When he danced the lead role in the American Ballet Theatre's world premiere of Othello in 1997, the New York Times described him as "one of the most majestic dancers ever to tread the Metropolitan Opera House stage." Dance Magazine, which in 2007 honored Richardson along with four other dance artists for their "major contribution to our field," called him "one of the most popular guest dancers worldwide today," one whose "sculpted body and dramatic presence are instantly identifiable." Others have praised his "technical virtuosity and statuesque and expressive demeanor."

Richardson co-founded Complexions Contemporary Ballet in 1994 with fellow dancer/choreographer Dwight Rhoden, like Richardson a former member of the Alvin Ailey company. Richardson has been described as "the (company's) hallmark performer who has shaped the essence of the Complexions style for over a decade."