Passion Flowers

Choreographer Dwight Rhoden's new work, created for Ballet Arizona, just might alter your perception of ballet. Through eclectic references to various world cultures, Scarlet Symphony defies the conventions of an art form that's steeped in tradition.

A recent chat with Rhoden, former principal dancer for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and current co-director of Complexions, revealed much about his creative process.

"Scarlet Symphony is really a mélange of ideas," says Rhoden. "I am of mixed heritage myself, and my work tends to focus on the coming together of many elements into one."

The choreography follows a musical journey from culture to culture. At times, dancers partner in the tango. At other moments, the dancers' torsos are twisted and pulled to extreme angles, their lines askew. Whether moving independently or in unison, the dancers are in harmony. In all their multi-ethnic glory, their movements underscore the theme of unity of disparate elements.

Rhoden created the ballet's musical score by looping and sampling several of Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla's works. The result spans musical styles, from Middle Eastern and North African to tango and Spanish music. "All these different pieces of music have the impression of real intensity that's indigenous to each culture that the music comes from," Rhoden says.

The title of the piece, he explains, comes from the color he sees when he listens to this music -- red, with its many shades, depths and passionate connotations. And the choreography, he says, is a depiction of that passion. It might be enough to make anyone fall in love with ballet. Ballet Arizona's Spring Program, which includes Scarlet Symphony as well as George Balanchine's Slaughter on Tenth Avenue and Allegro Brillante, opens at 8 p.m. Friday, May 10, and runs through Sunday, May 12, at the Orpheum Theatre, 203 West Adams. Tickets are $18 to $42 and can be purchased through or the box office, 602-381-1096.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Terri Blicharz