Ailey Alum Seizes the Stage


Simon Plant and Larissa Gerszke (Courtesy of Jae Man Joo)


Celebrating nearly a quarter of a century of dance, the artists of Complexions Contemporary Ballet have once again leaped onto the stage and, as anticipated, put forth a season full of unforgettably electric performances, pushing balletic boundaries and leaving audiences across the world on the edge of their seats for what’s to come next.

From November 14-26, the company once again graced the stage of the Joyce Theatre in downtown Chealsea, drawing in New York City audiences to celebrate 24 years of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. This season, the company has brought back some of its most acclaimed works, “Star Dust” and “Gutter Glitter,” alongside four new works by Jae Man Joo, Dee Caspry, Ido Tamor and Complexions Artistic Director Dwight Rhoden. With this program, audiences everywhere can anticipate an evening full of elegance, athleticism and, of course, some signature Complexions pieces.

Since its debut in 1994, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson have created a reputation that Complexions pushes to stretch each day, breaking tradition both on and off the stage. Giving a new name to contemporary ballet, Complexions has created a new vocabulary of dance that will outlive generations of dancers to come. With an eye for the avant-garde and love of humanity, Rhoden and Richardson seek, through their company, to bring about a universal harmony through the art of dance.

Accompanying h the longstanding legacy Complexions holds are  the dancers who make this legacy a reality. Among the star-studded dancers of Complexions 24th season who just performed at the Joyce is Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. alum Larissa Gerszke, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) ‘16. While this season only marks her third with the company, the epitome of power and grace, Gerszke glides across the stage in Gutter Glitter. It is easy to see how every moment of her life has led to the stage. Joining Complexions for their 2015-2016 season, Gerszke was one of just a few in her senior class to land a professional job upon completing her Fordham degree.

While getting a job for senior year of the Fordham/Ailey B.F.A. program is quite a feat in itself, Gerszke didn’t simply land a job, but got the job. Throughout the dance community and beyond, the Complexions name is coupled with international acclaim and prestige. While they may not always appear in the traditional tutu or have the pink pointe shoe, the technical aptitude and overall beauty of Complexions dancers is so pristine and refined, that they serve as a reminder to people around the world, little children to adults and dancers and non dancers alike, what it truly means to be a ballerina. So for Gerszke, who wasn’t even out of college yet, prevailing past hundreds of other dancers vying for this opportunity, is the ultimate triumph and testament.

Gerszke’s accomplishments are by no means atypical in the longstanding legacy of Ailey/Fordham BFA students successfully entering the professional dance force. Over the recent years Ailey/Fordham alumni have gone on to join companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Ailey II, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Carolyn Dorfman Dance, Limon Dance and more. This high level of graduate success is no coincidence, and Gerszke herself recognizes that in her own personal successes.

“I would not be who I am today without the knowledge and creative outlet that Fordham University & Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s BFA program offered me at a very crucial time in my life,”Gerszke said. “I am thankful for the professors, teachers and classmates who made the environment a place that fostered my curiosity while allowing me to hone in on my technical precision. I credit them with my ability to dance various repertoires in an athletically demanding company like Complexions.”

The rigor and difficulty of the BFA program is designed as such to ultimately bring about high levels of success. While this achievement is  easily observed in the studio, it is also heavily bred within the walls of Fordham University. While this knowledge may not be physical, Gerszke says it quite easily has translated into her life in the studio as well.

“Ailey/Fordham was also a place that allowed me to delve deeply into specific areas of academia that at once intrigued me and provided me with the resources I needed to make my career as healthy and as successful a journey as possible.,” said Gerszke.

And what a successful journey it has been. Gerszke is on the cusp of a lengthy, illustrious career. She continues to emulate the goal of the Ailey/Fordham legacy – to create smart dancers and send them out into the professional dance field. Gerszke, alongside her colleagues, will continue to tour the rest of the season and, as always, Complexions Contemporary Dance will continue to sell out their performances  and put audiences around the world on their feet, time and time again.