Like an arrow poised for flight, an undercurrent of restless agitation pervades Alonzo King’s latest work set to four Shostakovich string quartets. The music wavers in a state of crystalline suspension, pushing the dancers’ tensile strength to the limit as they revel in the space between harmony and discord, in the long arc before an earthbound fall.
Choreographed to Bach’s concerto in D Minor (utilized famously by George Balanchine in 1941), Concerto for Two Violins is a sleek and sharp salute to ballet’s past while marking the continued evolution of neoclassicism. Balanchine’s training in music theory provided one visual conception of the score. As King investigates the densely layered contrapuntal voices for himself, we hear beloved melodies anew. San Francisco Chronicle dance critic Alan Ulrich wrote that the piece delivered what LINES Ballet audiences have come to expect: “dancing of immense pliancy and emotional resonance by a team of amazingly resilient performers who relish the challenges that King’s choreography throws their way.”
Commissioned in 2010 by Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, King’s masterful Writing Ground draws inspiration from poems by award-winning author Colum McCann. An emotionally searing and lyrical work, set to a collection of sacred early music from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, Writing Ground challenges the Company to explore new physical territory. Writing Ground “illustrates the power of Alonzo King’s story-telling at its height” (Huffington Post).
Alonzo King’s collaboration with the Grammy Award winning composer and bass virtuoso Edgar Meyer is a welcoming piece of stunning moments, heart-piercing melodies, and touches of narrative rarely seen in King’s choreography.
Created for the Company’s 30th anniversary, Meyer is lusciously textured with a striking backdrop of synchronized water created by the Academy Award winning designer Jim Doyle. Meyer speaks of the complexities of human behavior in a piece that pulses with playfulness. King’s solos and duets alternate from exhilarating tear-up-the-space dancing to his sensitive and at times contentious partnering.
Meyer’s commissioned score, an appealing mix of classical and jazz for cello, violin, double bass, and piano, gives the piece and the performers a feeling of improvisational freedom uniquely honoring the roots of both contemporary dance and classical ballet.
In this piece, Alonzo King explores the orientation of our bodies to light. A ground-breaking collaboration with artist Jim Campbell, Constellation is both luminous and lucid, encompassing and intimate. When the dancers glimmer into view, they move the way that ideas move through the mind: synaptically, in pulses and flashes. King’s duets seem to show that the dancers can turn on any axis, or arc upwards from any clasp. Over the course of the piece, strings of lights drape their bodies, and lighted globes are tucked into their hands or the crooks of their knees.
The score meshes Baroque music, sung by the regal Israeli mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani, with contemporary music by Leslie Stuck, Somei Satoh and Benjamin Juodvalkis; sounds of winds whirring on white ice and the echoes of birds wheeling in the air sweep through the theater. Sleek gossamer costumes by Robert Rosenwasser and subtle, expansive lighting design by Axel Morgenthaler— hailed as “gorgeous” by the San Francisco Chronicle—set off the beauty and precision of the dancers. And the dancers, moved by Alonzo King’s idea that dancing is a form of communion that takes us beyond ourselves, glide into the light.
Triangle of the Squinches, is set to a commissioned score by legendary musician Mickey Hart and features an innovative kinetic set by cutting-edge architect Christopher Haas. In this piece, Alonzo King explores the inner and outer space of the body: how do we strive to touch something infinite with our material forms? What is the resonance between the bodies we inhabit and the forms we create?
“I am always hoping my music will move its audience,” jazz composer Jason Moran said of this collaboration with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Refraction marked the first time Moran had composed for dance, and he confided that his first experience watching Alonzo King and the LINES dancers in the studio was “a breakthrough—I wasn’t ready for what I witnessed.” Named “the most provocative thinker in current jazz” by Rolling Stone, Jason Moran is both steeped in the traditions of jazz and committed to pushing its boundaries. Refraction unites Moran and King as they open up new avenues for jazz and ballet as art forms—and create a vivid new dialogue between those forms. Voice of Dance described this piece as bringing together “an astonishingly flexible and fearless team of dancers, arresting choices of music, an intense, brooding atmosphere, and a movement style that begins with a ballet base, subjects the body to all manner of non-balletic flourishes, yet ultimately remains faithful to a classical ideal.”
“Like so many dances by the celebrated choreographer Alonzo King, Dust and Light resembles poetry in motion,” the Boston Globe proclaims. In a landscape that shifts like the clouds, dappling the stage with soft light and then bathing the dancers in silvery radiance, Alonzo King brings out the emotional intimacy of dance. The LINES Ballet dancers move in harmonious counterpoint to each other, setting off the rich variations of Arcangelo Corelli’s Baroque music against Francis Poulenc’s otherworldly sacred choral odes. Each body is replete with radiant potential, as if the stage were filled with a dozen moons—or perhaps with a dozen suns, since, as Alonzo King says, “a tendu isn't just the straightening of the leg but a ray of light radiating from the sun.” As the duets and trios of dancers culminate in an exuberant ensemble, the intimacy of the piece expands and opens outwards, immersing the audience in luminous grace.
Rasa, a deeply evocative and shimmering piece, set to an original score by tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, which was called “an intriguing wonder” by the New York Times. Zakir Hussain’s mastery of classical Indian percussion and unique vision of world music have brought him worldwide renown, including a Grammy nomination, and his collaborations with Alonzo King renew classical forms in an entirely innovative way. Tabla music began as dancing music, in Northern Indian courts in the early 1700s, and its hypnotic intensity and complex rhythms convey the strong feeling that they are meant to move the body. Rasa is thus both a continuation of a deep tradition--the interdependence of dance and tabla music as art forms--and an expression of the contemporary global vision of both artists.