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TALKING WITH DESMOND RICHARDSON

Photo: Brian Thomas

Desmond Richardson is co-founder and co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Called “one of the greatest dancers of his time” by The New York Times, Richardson danced with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as a principal dancer from 1987 to 1994 and, in 1997, joined American Ballet Theatre where he was swiftly promoted to become the first African-American principal dancer in company history.

He is a master teacher for several dance programs including New York’s All Stars Project and YoungArts Miami. Late last year, he gave a master class at Vassar College in anticipation of joining the school’s dance faculty this year.

How did you get started in the business?
I got started in the business in my formative years by attending the High School of the Performing Arts in NYC, studying at The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center and the Köln, Germany Summer Des Tanz, thus pushing me toward one of my goals and dreams to join the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which I did.

What do you consider your greatest successes – personally and professionally?
My greatest successes personally have been to fully investigate myself, seeking the necessary help to be my most authentic self.

My greatest successes professionally have been many but a few that stand out: Starting Complexions Contemporary Ballet with my collaborator Dwight Rhoden in 1995 and celebrating our 27th season this year; becoming the first African American principal dancer of American Ballet Theater since its inception; receiving a Tony Award nomination for my role in my first Broadway show, Fosse.

If you hadn’t chosen a career as an entertainer, what other career path do you think you’d have followed?
I do not put my thoughts in this direction. As for me, it was not a choice, yet a calling, so I never considered anything else.

What’s always in your refrigerator?
Egg whites.

What is your worst quality?
I’m controlling.

What music is on your playlist?
Anika Noni Rose’s “So Much More.”

What’s your sign and what does it say about you?
I am a Sagittarius. It says that I am creative, compassionate and focused.

Read any good books lately?
Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland.

Cat person or dog person?
Both.

What’s the greatest thing since sliced bread?
Nutella.

What’s your “guilty pleasure” television show?
HGTV.

In the movie version of your life, who would play you?
Hmm. Good question.

What are your thoughts about our great state of Florida?
Palm trees and beautiful weather.

Who or what inspires you?
I draw inspiration from my deceased mother, who still inspires me to be all I can be.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet plays Ferguson Hall on March 31. Get tickets here.

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