Culture Vulture, August 6, 2011
This phrase could mean many things: Lines to buy tickets, lines at will call, lines to buy a drink at intermission…But if it is “LINES” in capital letters and “Ballet” after that, you know I am talking the world famous company of director/choreographer Alonzo King from San Francisco last night at Santa Fe’s Performing Arts Center.
The word lines is used in dance quite a lot: “She has a wonderful line, the Willis form perfect diagonal lines in Act II of Giselle,” etc. But I always wondered why King made this word a part of his company’s name: LINES Ballet. And now I know – the expressiveness of line, the generosity of line, the discipline of line. These things all come to mind as I review in my head the effusive performance I saw last evening. I found myself continually looking over at my daughter, a retired classical dancer, as we nodded in agreement each time we saw yet another spectacular moment of dancing.
This is not your grandfather’s ballet. To say that the company has been infused with the styles and techniques of ballet and modern dance from the past would do a disservice to King as director and dance maker. Yes, there are hints of Balanchine, Martha, Twyla, Bob Joffrey and Gerald Arpino; but also Ailey, Horton and McKale. But these are not shadows of those great choreographers of the 20th century; merely grist for the mill in the inventive mind of Alonzo King. Infusion of all these styles and techniques of the past only makes richer the spontaneous nature of King’s creativity. And yes, he creates extraordinary “lines"; or, at least, his dancers do. Each dancer in the 12-member ensemble appears as a soloist and ensemble member in the same breath.
And, this is not your lily-white company. If Ailey’s was always referenced as a black company, then King’s would have to be viewed as a many-hued company of very special dancers. You sense the depth of the cultural background each dancer brings to his or her performance – different body types, different histories, even breaking the self imposed Balanchine era barrier of height. These people were generally tall and well-proportioned athletes.
You will notice I have said very little about the actual dancing in detailed terms. Yes, there was a wonderful this and exquisite that; but where to begin. It is like trying to express in words one of our ever-changing New Mexico sunsets: you can never quite capture it in words – you simply experience it. You simply must see this company and Alonzo King’s choreography to get its full beauty and importance. Catch a glimpse on YouTube and tell Aspen Santa Fe Ballet loud and clear that you want the company back for another sold-out performance.