By C.B. Adams
While waiting for the curtain to rise on Dance St. Louis’ 57th-season opener on Friday, Nov. 4, I Googled whether David Bowie had ever opined about dance. I was interested because this evening’s performance at the Touhill Performing Arts Center was “Stardust: From Bach to Bowie” by the NYC-based Complexions Contemporary Ballet.

And sure enough, the Google gods provided something Bowie once tossed out to Conan O’Brien: “I don’t know how many times someone has come up to me and said, ‘Hey, Let’s dance!’ I hate dancing. God, it’s stupid.”

That’s a funny, quotable line, and one that I’m sure he didn’t really mean. It’s hard to imagine a rock icon whose recommended reading list ranged from Camille Paglia’s “Sexual Personae: Art And Decadence From Nefertiti To Emily Dickinson” to “A Clockwork Orange” by Anthony Burgess and from “Passing” by Nella Larson to Julian Jaynes’ “The Origin Of Consciousness In The Breakdown Of The Bicameral Mind” would have really found dance at Complexion’s high level stupid.

Bowie was no dancer, but his innovative, chameleon-like stage presence revealed a theatricality and an understanding of rhythm, movement, lighting, clothing and presentation. His personas, from glam to glum, revealed an awareness of a certain sort of dance language, much like David Byrne of the Talking Heads (think of the way he moved in that Big Suit, or more recently, his “American Utopia” dance-adjacent performance). If dance (classical ballet to contemporary) works in sentences and paragraphs, then Bowie worked in specific words. In this regard, think Michael Jackson and that single, sequined raised glove.

All of this highlights the successful blending of Bowie and ballet achieved by Complexions’ co-founder and choreographer Dwight Rhoden in the piece “Stardust.” In a recent interview with the “Los Angeles Times” about “Stardust,” Rhoden says, “…there’s a little Bowie in all of us… There’s so much imagery in the lyrics, there’s so many personas and characters and colors to his personality that it just lends itself to a performance of some kind.”

Complexions is masterful at this type of pop culture and contemporary dance mash-ups that have included the music of Marvin Gaye, Lenny Kravitz and Metallica. Beyond the novelty of these collaborations, it’s the versatility, athleticism and adeptness of the company that elevates the approach from performance to art while incorporating a wide range of elements from hip-hop to modern and classical ballet.

“Stardust” consists of nine Bowie songs, each with its own choreography and each lip synced by one or more of the dancers. The sequence begins with “Lazarus,” a song from Bowie’s last studio album (“Blackstar”) and his last single released before his death. This is followed by a “best of” sequence of songs spanning Bowie’s career, including “Changes,” “Modern Love” and “Young Americans.”

Each of the dancers had their own Bowie identity that drew from his iconic array of hairstyles, face paints and costumes. It was a nice reminder of how innovative the gender- and genre-bending Bowie was, especially in his glam-rock era. With no sets and minimal staging (and spot-on lighting by Michael Korsch), the emphasis was clearly on the choreography and execution by the dancers.

The program lists the dancers only as “The Company,” so instead of individual names, it’s best to refer to songs. Collectively, The Company is an exceptionally – and exceptionally equally talented – group of dancers that delivered an impressive range of strength, intensity, athleticism, expressiveness and technical prowess.

Of the nine choreographies, one of the standouts was certainly “Space Oddity,” during which the lead dancer confidently strode across the stage on pointe, then held a very Bowie-esque position for an extended, intense moment. Another standout was “Heroes,” danced to Peter Gabriel’s slow, extended cover of the song from his “Scratch My Back” album. Fans of Netflix’s “Stranger Things” might recognize this version of the song, which benefits from the slow treatment, reminiscent of Michael Andrews’ “Donnie Darko” soundtrack cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World.” The Company’s ensemble work on “Heroes” was exceptionally fluid and evocative.

The weakest of the series was “1984.” The choreography was not as interpretive, robust or visually interesting as the others. The dancer, clad in a leotard that was more Mary Lou Retton than Thin White Duke, wasn’t given movements as challenging or wowie “Zowie” as the others.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet

“Stardust” may have attracted the most attention, but it comprised only the second half of the Complexion’s program. The evening began with “Hissy Fits” after a rousing, pre-show “Happy Birthday” to Michael Uthoff, Dance St. Louis’ Artistic Director. “Hissy Fits” applies a frenetic, slinky, edgy choreography to some traditional melodies of J.S. Bach (heavy on the Glenn Gould interpretations).

Perhaps because “Hissy Fits” was more finely integrated from one Bach piece to the next, rather than discrete Bowie songs, it felt stronger and more “of a piece.” It was tempting to take it more seriously. Not better, per se, but certainly different. It was a strong piece and good choice to introduce the Complexions company.

As “Hissy Fits” opened with a fogged stage and the dancers beautifully illuminated (Michael Korsch’s lighting design for the entire show as stellar). Clad in nude-colored shorts and leotards, the dancers were statuesque in contrast to the lively, sinuous, complicated choreography that lived up to its name. “Hissy Fits” was more lyrical than “Stardust” and it is tempting to describe it as more balletic and classical, but not at the expense of its contemporary street dance elements. It’s a complicated piece about complicated feelings of frustration, bordering on hysteria.

The performance ended with a long-lasting, well-deserved standing ovation. As Bowie once observed, “Gentleness clears the soul, love cleans the mind and makes it free.” Gentleness, love and freedom shone through the dancers and the passionate choreography linked the two halves of the soulful program.

At the Touhill Performing Arts Center, Saturday, November 5

Popular “game-changing” New York City-based company performs blockbuster hit STAR DUST, an “utterly transfixing” tribute
to the life and music 
of David Bowie

Complexions Contemporary Ballet was founded in 1994 by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater virtuosos
Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson

Dance St. Louis, one of the country’s oldest and remaining nonprofit dance presenters, kicks off its 57th season on Saturday, November 5 at 7:30 p.m. at the Touhill Performing Arts Center with the presentation of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, the award-winning, “game-changing” New York City-based company that has been lauded for reinventing dance and contemporary ballet. Complexions is set to perform its blockbuster hit STAR DUST, an “utterly transfixing” (Billboard) tribute to the life and music of David Bowie, full of glitter and glam. Tickets are $45-$69 and available through 2022/23 season subscription packages—2-show, 3-show, 4-show—are also still available through the Dance St. Louis Box Office at 314.534.6622 or


Critics hail STAR DUST as “spellbinding” (Billboard) and “simply one of the most exciting performances… a rock concert” (Washington Post). Featuring some of David Bowie’s best-loved music, including “Let’s Dance,” “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Young Americans,” “Life on Mars,” and more, STAR DUST takes on an array of Bowie’s greatest hits to create a rock-inspired ballet in his honor

STAR DUST is choreographed by Complexions’ co-founder and artistic director Dwight Rhoden who says, “there is a little Bowie in all of us” (Los Angeles Times, 2018) and notes in the same article that Bowie was “so courageous and unafraid to reinvent himself over and over and over again” and “his music is timeless.”  STAR DUST’s glam-rock costumes are designed by Christine Darch, with makeup inspired by Bowie’s alternating personas of Ziggy Stardust and Thin White Duke. Lighting design is by Michael Korsch. With Bowie’s 40+ year career and 25 albums that stretch across musical borders, STAR DUST pays homage to the iconic and chameleonic spirit and genre-bending innovation of David Bowie


Complexions Contemporary Ballet was founded in 1994 by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater virtuosos Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson— “two of the greatest virtuosos to ever emerge from Ailey land” (The New York Times). In its 28-year history, the company has come to represent one of the most recognized and respected performing arts brands in the world.  

Through its evocative style and groundbreaking mix of methods, styles and cultures, Complexions has awakened audiences to a new, exciting genre with its singular approach of reinventing dance and contemporary ballet. Complexions’ high-octane movement astonishes audiences by pairing its fierce evocative style with musical ranges from Lenny Kravitz and David Bowie to Johann Bach. With stunning, gifted dancers and powerful choreography, Complexions has been hailed as a “matchless American dance company” (Philadelphia Inquirer). 

Complexions has received numerous awards including The New York Times Critics’ Choice Award. It has performed on major stages throughout the United States and Europe and toured extensively throughout the Baltic Regions, Korea, Brazil, Japan, Egypt, Israel, Russia, New Zealand, Bermuda, Serbia, Jamaica, and Australia. In total, the company has presented on five continents, more than 20 countries, to more than 20 million television viewers and to well over 300,000 people in live audiences. The company is poised to continue its mission of bringing unity to the world one dance at a time

More information about Complexions Contemporary Ballet can be found on Dance St. Louis’ website or Complexion’s website at


Tickets are $45-$69 and available via MetroTix at 314-534-1111 or

2022/23 season subscriptions (2-show, 3-show and 4-show packages) are also still available for ticket buyers interested in attending more of Dance St. Louis’ season presentations. Season ticket packages start at $80 and are available directly through the Dance St. Louis Box Office at 314.534.6622. More details at


“Companies like Complexions are game-changing: they’re forging a path for what ballet can be instead of what it historically has been.” — The Guardian

“…sensationally, jaw-droppingly clear that we live in the age of the super-dancer, at a time when technical virtuosity is being redefined as an expressive state…” — Dance Magazine

“…one expects to see magnificent athletic endeavors, intriguing movement invention, and perfectly contoured bodies—and the company always delivers.”  — Theater Jones

“Rhoden’s work is post-Balanchinean choreography, a new aesthetic in movement, stage picture, and performance concepts reflecting a post-modern, techno-savvy worldview.” — Dance Magazine


Dance St. Louis is grateful for sponsor support to continue its nearly six decades-long mission to bring world-class dance to St. Louis. Major sponsors of the 2022-23 season include Ameren, Edward Jones, Emerson, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Drs. Susan and Dan Luedke, Missouri Arts Council, National Endowment for the Arts, Regional Arts Commission, The Shubert Foundation, Mary Strauss and Whitaker Foundation. Bayer Fund is the education outreach title sponsor. 


Dance St. Louis continues to be recognized as the leading dance presenter in St. Louis and the Midwest. The remaining 2022-23 season presentations:  Giordano Dance ChicagoSaturday, February 25, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. | Touhill Performing Arts Center
Dorrance DanceSaturday, March 25, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. | Touhill Performing Arts Center
15th Annual Emerson SPRING TO DANCE® Festival 2023 Presented by Whitaker FoundationFriday and Saturday, May 26 & 27, 2023 at 7:30 p.m. | Touhill Performing Arts Center 

For tickets or more information on the Dance St. Louis 2022-23 season, please visit


About Dance St. LouisFounded in 1966, Dance St. Louis has been bringing the greatest dance of the world to St. Louis audiences for more than 56 years. Dance St. Louis is dedicated to the enrichment of the cultural landscape and artistic reputation of St. Louis by presenting world-class dance and educational opportunities that make dance accessible to everyone. Dance St. Louis also conducts a broad range of education programs for the St. Louis community. Each year, the Bayer Fund Education Outreach Program introduces schoolchildren to the magic of dance through in-school residencies and mainstage performances. For more information, please visit