Photo from Staller Center Promotional Photo
By Colleen Mertes
The Alonzo King LINES Ballet company from California gave a beautiful performance last Sunday night that grew more emotional, and contemporary, as the night flew by.
The night started off with the company performing to Concerto for Two Violins by J.S. Bach. I thought for a moment that they had a live orchestra since the pit was descended a little. How challenging, vibrant, and indulgent to see a live and hear two live performances working in tandem. When the lights came one showed the only minutely lowered pit though, I was let down.
This is my only complaint. The show was already so beautiful that it is difficult to put in to words, but a live orchestra would have made it too spectacular for words.
King’s choreography to the concerto was delightful. The bodies portrayed the musical instruments, layering on movement phrases as the orchestra layered musical phrases.
The Men’s Quintet was a treat. For one, it celebrated male ballerinas, which is refreshing as generally the image we conjure of a ballerina is a tall graceful woman dressed in a pink tutu. It also really played up the largo movement of the music and had a mysterious, exciting quality.
Four of the men moved as one connected body, as the soloist created amazing fluidity in his body, almost like a snake. He moved and manipulated the other four. In an amazingly trusting move, he leaped into their arms. They showed no struggle. It looked easy- as if he was floating on air.
The highlight of the night was the final piece, which was the whole of the second half, called Writing Ground. It is also the title of the poem by Colum McCann which was the inspiration and platform for this powerful piece. King says “Most of the thoughts that run in our heads are repetitive…and the qualities of those thoughts produce results…This drew me to the sacred music of cultures that express thoughts about zeal, longing, aspiration and transformation.”
The backdrop and lighting take you from forest to ocean to sand and back again, with just a few changes in hue and movement. The music changes 14 times as each new section begins, but it goes by seamlessly.
King employs sacred music from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and chanting in Tsaok Offering. Using this type of music elevates the movement of the dancers, giving them an ethereal quality, like otherworldly beings.
The dancers’ strength was highlighted in instances such as when a trio of ballerinas crouched en pointe for more than a few seconds. They visibly wobbled, but pushed their bodies to walk in this terrifyingly balanced position.
Duets of dancers toppled over each other, each body giving the other movement and life. The single dancer could not stand on their own, it was together that they moved. Sometimes this meant one physically moving the others legs or melting into one another, supporting the other.
At the end of the night, the Alonzo King LINES Ballet had delivered a stunning performance and expanded many minds in the vocabulary of dance.