Interviews

Aussies Thomas Dilley and Simon Plant live the dream with Complexions Contemporary Ballet 

Simon Plant of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.
Simon Plant of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet (CCB) is known for its dynamic dancers, thrilling choreography, and stunning combination of classical and contemporary movement. The company has been on tour since mid-March, and continues to perform throughout the US before heading abroad to Israel and Germany. 

Aussie dancers Thomas Dilley and Simon Plant have been a part of Complexions since 2019 and 2017, respectively. They have been living the dance dream of performing with an elite company while living in an exciting city like New York City. While moving abroad and starting life in another country has surely had its difficulties, Dilley and Plant are gratefully embracing those challenges and are excited to be on tour with a company that pushes them as artists and fuels their creative soul.

Here, get to know Dilley and Plant, their journey with CCB, and what it’s like working with Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden. 

Thomas Dilley of Complexions. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.
Thomas Dilley of Complexions. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.

When and why did you move to the US?

Thomas Dilley 

“I have always dreamed of living in NYC from a young age. So when I got the opportunity to work with Complexions, it was a no-brainer for me. I was also very drawn to the opportunities they have here in the US for dance.”

Simon Plant 

“I moved to the US initially in 2016, with my husband Matt, whom I met during my time as a dancer with The Australian Ballet. We had a dream which started out as fantasy, and soon became something more serious. We chased that dream, and here we are today, living and working in New York. It hasn’t all been easy. In fact, very little of it has been easy. But through it all, we’ve had each other, and for that I’m extremely grateful.”

Simon Plant (left) of Complexions. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.
Simon Plant (left) of Complexions. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.

When did you become a member of CCB? Did you audition for the company? What was the experience of joining the company like? 

Plant

“I joined Complexions in August of 2017, but my first audition was well over a year before that. First time I auditioned, there wasn’t a position available, but sometimes persistence is key. When I joined, I had a lot on my plate. Simultaneously, I was picking up current rep for an upcoming tour, trying to familiarize myself with the style, and taking part in multiple new creations for that year’s Joyce season which I believe was in November of that year.”

Dilley 

“I was offered a contract for the 2018-19 season, but due to visa issues, I joined five months later in January 2019. I actually sent through a video submission as I was still living in Australia at the time and was lucky to have been offered a contract via video! Which I’m so blessed and fortunate for. My experience joining CCB was definitely a shock! I didn’t expect to be dancing as much as I did, but I was so happy to have been given so many soloist opportunities so fast.”

What do you love most about dancing with CCB? And what are some of your favorite rep works? 

Thomas Dilley of Complexions. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.
Thomas Dilley of Complexions. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.

Dilley

“I love the style of Dwight Rhoden’s work and the one-on-one attention and guidance we get from Dwight and Desmond Richardson. I loved performing a piece called Choke and another piece called Dear Frédéric, but I always have a place for Woke, as that was the first ballet I got to be a part of. But there is so much more rep I would love to perform, such as Mercy and Moon Over Jupiter.”

Plant 

“The movement style is what I love most about Complexions. Dwight Rhoden’s work sits in that perfect ‘Goldilocks zone’ where classical ballet and contemporary dance diverge, which is a sweet spot for me and sometimes hard to come by. I love contemporary dance, don’t get me wrong. But I draw the line at pedestrian. Call me old-fashioned, but that’s my taste. One of my favorite pieces from the repertoire to perform would have to be Rhoden’s Woke. The program note describes it as ‘a physical reaction to the daily news.’ To me, it’s a kind of war cry, a demand for change and justice where not enough is being done. We created and premiered Woke in 2019, during a politically tumultuous time in the US, and I think the piece has only become more relevant since.”

What’s your favorite thing about living and working in such a vibrant city like New York?

Complexions Contemporary Ballet's Simon Plant in Jae Man Joo's 'Goodnight'. Photo by Ani Collier.
Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Simon Plant in Jae Man Joo’s ‘Goodnight’. Photo by Ani Collier.

Plant

“Living in New York has its fair share of challenges; don’t be fooled by the bright lights and what Alicia Keys describes as a town where ‘there’s nothing you can’t do.’ But nowhere will you find a better bagel. And the pizza? Forget about it. It’s also a dream living this close to Broadway. There’s no shortage of live theatre, and if you’re a musical theatre fan (like me), this city ticks a huge box.”

Dilley 

“I love the opportunities that NYC has to offer, and how convenient it is. It also feels like I’m living in a movie, so that’s pretty cool.”

What are some of the challenges of having a career in another country and living so far from home? 

Dilley

“It’s definitely hard being so far away from my family, as I am one of six children and we are all very close. I also found it hard moving here because I didn’t have any connections, friends or family. But now going onto my fourth season with the company, it now feels like home.”

Plant

“Financially speaking, it is a challenge to work as an Aussie in the United States. Immigration services and lawyer fees and airfares to make consular appointments all add up over time. Also, the culture shock is real. Just because Americans speak English does not mean they’ll know which item of clothing you’re referencing when you say, ‘I lost my thong at the beach.’”

How has your pandemic experience been? Were you still able to take class, dance, perform? Were you able to ever see family? Any silver linings for you over the past couple of years?

Dilley

“The pandemic was very hard for me and everyone for that matter. I actually moved back to Australia in March 2019, as I had a tendon reconstruction on my right foot, and there wasn’t much here for me to do. I moved back to NYC in December 2020, and did some teaching and guest performances to help out financially until the company started back. I was very blessed to have had a lot of teaching opportunities at my home studio and had a lot of time to work on my weaknesses while recovering. It was great to have had some extra time with my family at home during the pandemic, but I missed my life here in the States.”

Plant

“My pandemic experience was difficult, I won’t lie. Once the novelty of lockdown wore off, there was this looming sense of dread and self-purposelessness that crept in. I think many dancers struggled with that. There were no performances. I didn’t attend class for a whole year. And to me, the prospect of doing a virtual class from my cramped New York apartment was, in a word, repulsive. But physicality was not much of a concern. I knew what I needed to do to get myself back in shape having taken time away from dance before. Also, I’m fortunate to have other interests in life that keep me occupied and sane. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen my family in person in over two years. I miss them dearly. Silver lining is that I’ve experienced a significant perspective adjustment. After battling with the idea of giving dance up completely, I decided I could not let a global pandemic decree my retirement. And here I am now, on the other side, still performing and proud of it.”

What are you most looking forward to during this Complexions tour? 

Dilley 

Thomas Dilley of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.
Thomas Dilley of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.

“I’m very excited for our tour – performances in Los Angeles, multiple cities in Germany and Israel, just to name a few. I’m honestly just looking forward to be performing on so many different stages with all of our ballets.”

Plant

“Performing abroad is always exciting, but for me as in immigrant, any national tour we do here feels international. I’m looking forward to going back to Portland, Oregon. And Beverly Hills. Also Pittsburgh; I’ve never been to Pennsylvania. We might have a new premiere in the works for May as well, and it’s always a thrill performing something new.”

What’s your advice for young, aspiring dancers? What are three words or qualities that have helped you in your career journey? 

Plant

“Some words that have helped me in my career: A versatile dancer is a valuable one. Never mark when learning new choreography. And my third piece of advice is something a great teacher of mine, Simon Dow, once told me: ‘Leap and the net will appear.’ I interpret this as a kind of life-is-too-short mantra. Opportunity won’t find you if you don’t go looking for it. And to begin any journey, you have to take a risk. Leap. You’ll land on your feet eventually.”

Simon Plant of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.
Simon Plant of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. Photo by Rachel Neville Photography.

Dilley 

“Stay humble, driven and inspired. No matter what anyone will tell you in this industry, if you want it bad enough you can work for it. Don’t let anyone bring/shut you down. Use it as encouragement. Nothing feels better than proving someone wrong.”

What’s your ultimate favourite part about dancing with an amazing company like CCB?

Plant

“Working with Complexions is an extremely unique experience. It pushes you outside your comfort zone and reminds you constantly of what it is you love about the art form – why we do this crazy thing.”

Dilley

“I’m just so happy to have found a company that does the work I love most and accepts me for the dancer I am. It makes moving all this way worth it.”

You can follow Thomas Dilley and Simon Plant on Instagram: @thomas_dd and @mrplantofficial.

For more information about Complexions Contemporary Ballet, visit www.complexionsdance.org

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa. 

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