Review: Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Written for VOICE Magazine on October 8, 2016.

As the first performance in Arts & Lectures’s dance series, celebrated contemporary ballet company Alonzo King LINES Ballet brought two works to the Granada Theater this past weekend for a program full of extraordinary virtuosity and thrilling physicality. Based in San Francisco, LINES Ballet has developed a reputation for innovative choreography that stretches the boundaries of contemporary ballet.

The first work, “Shostakovich,” opens with a selection from Shostakovich’s string quartets. The dancers move fluidly in and out time with the music, their long limbs moving in time with plucks on the strings and whirling rapidly through longer strokes. In this series of twists and turns, we see King’s innovative and liberating style of ballet that disassembles the standard vernacular and replaces ordinary transitions with waves that radiate through the whole body. 

The duets in this work are particularly thrilling, showcasing a great deal of flexibility and strength through lifted legs, arched torsos, and grand sweeps across the floor. In the wildness of these movements, however, are moments of captivating stillness and subtlety. A single horizontal line of light rises steadily higher as the dancers enter and exit in more duets and group work full of rippling arm movements that reverberate throughout the bodies of the dancers onstage. There are many well-placed moments of silence in this work and even more well-timed moments of harmony and discord as the dancers move in and out of tensile movements that beg for release.

The second work, “Sand”, is set to the work of Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran. A more playful piece than “Shostakovich,” this piece begins with the company facing the audience, moving slowly to one side of the stage and then the other, as one or two dancers arch suddenly backwards and then slowly right themselves. As the music accelerates and becomes more dynamic, we see the same virtuosic expression translated into longing reaches and battements of legs by the women and the men in the company barreling through space with many turns and leaps, possibly in an attempt to defy gravity.

Dancers dart in and out of sight from behind the lighted scrim as though they are remnants of a dream or vision, dancing with light and energetic feet. At the culmination of the work, there is a curious duet between a man and woman, full of caresses and carrying. It ends abruptly with a turning of the head and stillness, almost teasing the audience with an interpretation, creating a crowning moment of abstract expression to a full evening of beautiful movement.