On the Side: D. Gary W. Jeter II

January 25, 2010

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.”