Alonzo King Brings His LINES Ballet to the Lensic for Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Aug. 5

- July 26, 2011

"'...LINES Ballet is a company on the edge of contemporary ballet… a vision that remains inscribed in memory...'"

LINES Ballet of San Francisco, due at the Lensic for an 8 p.m. performance on Friday, Aug. 5, is a celebrated contemporary ballet company that has been guided since 1982 by the uniquely global artistic vision of its founder and artistic director, choreographer Alonzo King. Collaborating with noted composers, musicians, and visual artists, King has created works that draw on a diverse set of deeply-rooted cultural traditions and which imbue classical ballet with new expressive potential. King’s visionary choreography is renowned for its ability to connect audiences to a profound sense of shared humanity—of vulnerability and tenderness, but also of furious abandon and exhilarating freedom.

France’s Le Monde puts it this way: “Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet is a company on the edge of contemporary ballet…King’s choreography, realized by a troupe of nine breath-taking dancers, is a vision that remains inscribed in memory.”

Touring; always a part of a chamber-sized dance company’s existence, has taken LINES to the Venice Biennale, the Edinburgh Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, New York’s Joyce Theater, Ballet Béjart and on to Santa Fe for next week’s performance at the Lensic.

For the Lenisc and Santa Fe’s exuberant dance audiences, LINES offers Dust and Light (2009) and Rasa (2007), considered to be among Alonzo King’s strongest works in recent years. King's inventiveness, his curious turns of thought, and the dedication of his performers, who risk everything, are guaranteed to make this program gripping.

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 in Dust and Light. In this work from LINES Ballet’s 2009 home season, LINES dancers move, in King’s words, “In 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 said to be 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.”  With duets and trios of dancers and an exuberant ensemble, the intimacy of the piece, in King’s words “expands and opens outwards, immersing the audience in luminous grace.”

In the more playfully sensuous Rasa, the score by Hindustani musicians Zakir Hussain and Kala Ramnath blends percussive tabla rhythms, violin and voice.” Hussain, universally acknowledged to be one of the world's leading virtuosos of Indian Classical percussion, is the son of the great Ustad Allarakha (known simply as Alla Rakha), who passed away in 2000 and was best known as a master tabla player in his long association with Ravi Shankar. Hussain continues to expand the boundaries of his musical universe, working with jazz legends such as John McLaughlin and as a Grammy® Award-winner for the Global Drum Project with Mickey Hart, ex-Grateful Dead drummer and percussionist and collaborator with Alonzo King on King’s epic Triangle of the Squinches from last spring’s LINES season in San Francisco.

This collaboration between Alonzo King and Zakir Hussain is 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. The complex rhythmic systems of tabla, like the technique of Western classical ballet, demand the devotion and utter concentration of the artists who practice them; and yet, at the heart of the music and the dance, there is a sense of openness, of arising in joy, of soaring beyond the structures and being held there, aloft.

Of a performance of this very same program at the Joyce Theater, critic Robert Johnson has said, “Style is nearly everything in these pieces, both plotless collages of music and movement that are exquisitely refined. King's response to the music balances this atmospheric evening with contrasts.”

 Johnson goes on to say, “Transfigured by soulful anguish, and peopled with figures who seem constricted in their own loneliness or who drag themselves across the floor, Dust and Light cuts sharply back and forth between sacred choruses by Francis Poulenc and Baroque concerti by Arcangelo Corelli."

Rhythm is a major issue in Rasa, yet the dancing here is often described by critics as more fluid than in Dust and Light. Instead, a movement phrase unfurls, a balance is sustained, and suddenly a gesture underscores a rhythmic accent.

For me, Alonzo King, Christopher Whealdon and Alexei Ratmansky are among the very few choreographers who are doing work at this artistic level since the deaths of Balanchine and Bob Joffrey.

The master of a clean-cut style of dancing all his own, choreographer King has brought his LINES Ballet from San Francisco to Santa Fe for one performance. This is a company focused clearly on the vision of this very talented choreographer, who has said of his own work, “I’ve always felt that people’s movements reveal more about them than what they say.’’

As a presenter, Aspen Santa Fe has brought performances by some of the best and most innovative companies in the world to audiences in Santa Fe and Aspen, including: Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, Paul Taylor Dance Company, MOMIX, Pilobolus, Hubbard Street, Les Ballets Trockadero, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris Dance Group, Parsons Dance Company, Miami City Ballet and Sydney Dance Company among others. LINES is but another example of the broad artistic vision of Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.