Desmond Richardson has been dominating the modern and ballet scenes for years—first as a standout member of the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (right out of high school!), then as a first company member and now as the co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. He was an American Ballet Theatre principal guest artist, a Tony Award nominee for Broadway’s Fosse and has performed with a slew of international dance companies. This month Richardson will receive the prestigious youngARTS Alumni Award from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. DS caught up with the former youngARTS Presidential Scholar to talk about this honor.
Dance Spirit: Looking back, how did attending youngARTS Week when you were a teenager affect your life and career?
Desmond Richardson: Going to Miami and seeing so many artists from all over—visual artists, photographers, musicians and dancers—together in one place was amazing. It was a really brilliant and inspiring time in my life. We all stayed in contact after youngARTS Week.
DS: The Alumni Award winner is given a $5,000 stipend for a charity of his or her choice. How will you use this money?
DR: I would like to use it as part of a scholarship program of some sort. I’m interested in dancers who don’t get an opportunity to get a scholarship and to investigate their art.
DS: This is also a big year for you, as Complexions is celebrating its 15th anniversary. How does it feel?
DR: For co-artistic director Dwight Rhoden and me, it’s a triumph. People said we shouldn’t start a company because the arts weren’t getting funds—they were losing funds. But we wanted to do something different and bring dancers from different genres together in one enclave. So we did, and it’s been an amazing journey.
Photo by Rick Smith