Following Lights with Desmond Richardson by Danny Tidwell
Surprisingly, the prevailing top line: “Nothing to prove, only to share.” 2006, finally the time and place to be outspoken. So clear and full of life, this man’s work seems endless. As Desmond Richardson warms up before the first movmnt photo shoot, Denise Wall, dance teacher/studio owner, gets a new perspective. Strength, Courage and Wisdom is served in every ounce.
It’s very exciting being in this situation, asking your artistic director questions that draw full circles of an artist. “Well, I’ve always been dancing,” Desmond says, but it was at the former High School of Performing Arts that marked the beginning of his formal training. Denise and Desmond Richardson refer to the movie/TV series Fame as inspiration for that time. “I got bitten by the dance bug,” states Richardson.
“You gotta live a little, you gotta love a little”
Sophomore and Junior year, Desmond was invited to study classically at The Summer Academy of Dance in Germany. From watching videos of Nureyev, he became familiar with excellence. “While you were at Dance Alliance, I was so impressed that you took hip-hop class, and then taught a master ballet class,” Denise said. Growing up, Desmond shares that his major influence was street dancing. Coming from a similar street life as a child, I almost forget that some dancers didn’t experience the joy of finding their own personal groove before formal training. This is where education vs. education came to me. “How many kids get to that place, not knowing how they got there” Denise comments. I have been fortunate enough to be nurtured by both Denise and Desmond as a dancer. They make it imperative to understand where you’re coming from. It starts to become serious when it’s time to surface life to the product. Desmond adds that, “It’s really important for the person giving class to really invest. Denise Wall to second that, “Each person is such an individual.” With complete comprehension as a performer, I now have the option of using my body as a tool, to school the audience.
Eventually, Desmond finished up his training at the Ailey school. At 18, he joined the company of Alvin Ailey. As a young performance artist in the professional world, I often hear stories of what Alvin Ailey was like, or crazy things Mikhail Baryshnikov would say. Instead of sitting back and thinking that these old people are stuck in the past, I try and use those words for myself, almost as if those words were chosen for me. “Now is the time to show your artistry to the world. It’s not going to happen overnight. You gotta live a little, you gotta love a little. But you will find that it will be much more than your technical Polaris,” Desmond repeats advice Mr. Ailey gave to him on tour in Paris.
Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden are the artistic directors of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. And, as a result of years working under the late Alvin Ailey, both chose to approach their work with such alarm. Dancing with Complexions, it becomes very clear, very fast how serious our directors take this art. I couldn’t help but to ask, what effect did the death of Alvin Ailey have on his dancing. “Immensely,” responds Desmond. I take it that around this time many of the men of the Ailey company carried the HIV virus. Performing in Madonna’s Girlie Show tour, Desmond found out about his mentor’s death. Immediately returning to New York City, he performed with company, driving Alvin’s teachings through to the audience.
“Whatever I am doing at that particular moment is my favorite thing.” Desmond Richardson is clearly no stranger to the word movement. Dancing for names like Michael Jackson and Madonna. Principal contracts with major companies American Ballet Theatre and Alvin Ailey. His long range of talent has landed him on Broadway many times, dancing and singing in shows like Fosse and Movin’ Out, not to mention as a featured dancer in the movie Chicago, as well as in On the One, a film directed by Charles Randolph Wright. Mr. Richardson along with Dwight Rhoden provide inspiration on a regular basis. Desmond has had a major influence on my life and will forever remain one of my favorite dancers.
Pictures by Roger Moenks
Conversation with Desmond Richardson, Denise Duncan Wall and Danny Tidwell
Movmnt Magazine – Summer 2006