May 9, 2014 SPA

  • By RW

    Alonzo King LINES Ballet

    May 9, 2014 —From my experience over the past five years, contemporary ballet can be hit or miss. The motivation is, without exception, to pursue a more expressive art form unconfined by the restrictions of traditional ballet. Oftentimes this goal careens the artistic direction into an indulgent over intellectualization that leaves the audience baffled and the essence lost. Sometimes it propels the viewer into awe and respect of a nascent art form, realizing it’s potential.

    The Alonzo King LINES Ballet does not disappoint. From the opening number of the first piece, Resin, it is clear that the audience is in for a ride. It is comprised of a series of short solo vignettes, a handful of pas de deux’s with a smattering of group choreography. The music is fresh and heavily influenced or taken directly from Southern Spain and Eastern Asia. The subtle staging and lighting manipulations never distract, but always complement what we’re really here to see: the dancers. This performance has no tricks, gimmicks, nor does it pander to the inexperienced viewer: it’s pure unadulterated dance done well.

    The solo vignettes demonstrate the strength of each dancer, of which there are none of the lesser variety in this performance. There are however, niches where a particular dancer is allowed to capitalize on their strength: you have an undulator, two traditional ballerinas with long impeccable lines, a twitcher that exemplifies the small quick movements only seen in very modern and primitive ethnic dances, and one particularly talented gentleman who is best described as the most refined, balletic break dancer I have ever seen. The choreography is specifically for this group of dancers and much of the strength in the two pieces is derived from Mr. King’s intimate knowledge of their personalities and abilities. At points, the choreography for the female solos does fall short, and feels choreographed for the male body’s upper body strength and core torsion– neglecting the natural inclination for delicacy in the female form.

    The pas de deux’s combine the different personalities into new expressions. Often romantic, tender, violent, or brotherly, the two dancers never cease to operate as a single unit. The collective numbers have texture and demonstrate that despite different physical statures and individual strengths, this group does not require a “happy median” to operate together. The level of group performance is high and does not skimp on the cascading choreography that is viewing pleasure no matter where you establish a focal point.

    The dancers are as connected to each other as they are to the audience, often staged to linger and watch another’s solo or group piece, adding a presence that reconfirms that their effort is as a collective. There are superior performers, but there is no single star of the show, and the details in their dance, from a flexed foot to an expressively bent elbow, are shared among the company.

    Resin is a prelude to the second piece, Scheherazade. It is not your typical reinterpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov original, but rather an exploration and continuation of the initial musical and choreographic themes of duality and transformation, with the addition of loose narrative, meant to invoke and pay homage to its namesake piece. The structure is similar to Resin, with more group performances replacing the solos. The pas-de-deux set to Sinbad the Sailor was particularly memorable for the connection between the dancers and the large range of emotional expression.

    Overall, my biggest complaint is that LINES was only in town for a single night.