On the Side: D. Gary W. Jeter II

Clean classical line and a crisp allegro attack make Gary Jeter stand out as a dancer with Complexions Contemporary Ballet. But believe it or not, he didn’t begin studying ballet until he was a teenager, when he enrolled at Pebble Brook High School for the Performing Arts in Atlanta.


“I started out doing hip hop as a youngster with my friends, and then ballet came later,” Jeter says. His dance idol as a teen was Tight Eyez, one of the founders of krump, an aggressive, high-energy style of hip hop. “I have endless videos of Tight Eyez!” Jeter says. “He’s showing the extreme limits of what we can do with our bodies, and yet there’s a clarity and precision to all of his movement.” The same
quality, Jeter adds, characterizes the dancing of Complexions co-founder and ballet superstar Desmond Richardson.


Jeter, who takes hip hop classes whenever time permits, believes that his background in urban dance has helped him succeed in the world of contemporary ballet. “Ballet companies like Complexions explore movement in all its different forms,” he says. “With hip hop we can surprise current ballet fans and reach out to new audiences.” He recommends hip hop classes to ballet students. “You’ll discover a different side of your body. Ballet is all softness and smoothness, but hip hop is angles and sharpness, and those qualities are just as important for today’s classical dancer.”

Latest Posts

Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Tatiana Melendez Proves There's No One Way to Have a Ballet Career

This is Pointe's Fall 2020 cover story. Click here to purchase this issue.

Talk to anyone about rising contemporary ballerina Tatiana Melendez, and one word is bound to come up repeatedly: "Fierce." And fair enough, that's a perfectly apt way to describe the 20-year-old's stage presence, her technical prowess and her determination to succeed. But don't make the mistake of assuming that fierceness is Melendez's only (or even her most noteworthy) quality. At the core of her dancing is a beautiful versatility. She's just as much at ease when etching pure classical lines as she is when boldly throwing herself off-balance.

"Selfish choreographer that I am, I want Tatiana to stay with Complexions for all time," says her boss Dwight Rhoden, Complexions Contemporary Ballet's co-artistic director and resident choreographer. "She has a theatricality about her: When the music comes on, she gets swept away." Not too shabby for someone who thought just a few years ago that maybe ballet wasn't for her.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

The Anatomy of Arabesque: Why Placement and Turnout Are Key to Achieving This Crucial Position

Audition for any school or company, and they'll likely ask for a photo in arabesque. The position not only reveals a great deal about a dancer's ability, but it is also a fundamental building block for more advanced movements, like penché or arabesque turn. Beyond technique, it can be the epitome of grace and elegance onstage, creating unforgettable images—just try to imagine Swan Lake or Balanchine's Serenade without an arabesque.

Yet many dancers are unsatisfied with their arabesque lines, and students frequently ask how to improve their extensions. (Social media posts of dancers with extreme flexibility don't help!) In an attempt to lift the back leg higher, dancers may sacrifice placement and unknowingly distort their position in the process. How can you improve the height of your back leg while maintaining proper placement and turnout? We talked to a few experts to better understand the science behind this step.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Coppélia" (1976)

Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov share the unique experience of having danced at both American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet during their careers. The two overlapped at ABT in the mid-'70s, where they developed one of the best-known partnerships in ballet. They were both celebrated for their dynamism onstage; however, in this 1976 clip of the pas de deux from Coppélia, Kirkland and Baryshnikov prove they are also masters of control.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks