Alonzo King Lines Ballet Review – Lines Crumpled and Straight

 

Few dance audiences have been as packed and enthusiastic as that for Alonzo King Lines Ballet’s full program including two Chicago debut works—“Meyer” and “Writing Ground”.  When the most able ballerinas were crouching on full point and inching forward there were audible gasps of appreciation from the audience.  When the male soloist dancing with the bass player, Meyer himself, did a rapid switch from dance to a parting gesture there were appreciative laughs.  When another male soloist crouches into a rippled torso crunch to the side there were oohs scattered about the theater.

 

 

How well-named this troupe is.  The King choreography seems to be a granular discourse on lines moving inward, outward, crumpling and then expanding. 

 

 

In this respect King’s choreography seems both visceral and cerebral at once.  In the program King writes, “The term LINES alludes to all that is visible in the phenomenal world.  There is nothing that is made or formed without line.  Straight and Circle encompass all that we see.  Whatever can be seen is formed by the line…” and so forth.

 

 

 

Much as Frank Lloyd Wright talked about compressing an environment as prelude to your entrance to an expanded room vista King’s choreography features – a LOT- the constant move from compressed to long, long, long extended lines. 

 

 

You too may find yourself wondering if King has picked dancers with extraordinarily long arms or if it is the nature of the moves. 

 

 

The dancers—all—are superstars, without any weak links discernable as they moved nearly non-stop for this marathon performance with only one short intermission. 

 

 

The music for both pieces was so engaging that it was a strong temptation to shut eyes and miss the dancing.  “Meyer”, a combination jazz and classical work, was composed and performed by Double Bassist Edgar Meyer, along with cellist and Chicagoland native Gabriel Cabezas and Rob Moose on violin.  It was truly amazing to read that parts of the music preceded the choreography and some segues were for music added to dance as the dance and music were of a piece, like intertwined strands of DNA.   The fourteen musical selections in  “Writing Ground” were sacred music from different religious faiths—all quite beautiful and distinctive, with the sum being even greater than the parts.

 

 

King’s choreography succeeds in establishing its own language quickly.  Yet, it’s when it breaks out of its own mold that it delights the most.  For many the most fun moments were probably when one of the dancers starts throwing sheets of paper around.  These were gusts of chaos in what was otherwise order and it was always a smile-producing surprise in how the ensemble came together, with the scattered papers again in order, to regain neat and tidy.  

 

 

Similarly, when Meyer leaves the orchestra pit and plants on the stage it ticks up interest and makes for some of the more fun moments.

 

This well-defined movement language – the aforementioned lamentation on line-- of King’s choreography also means you might feel that different works are more redundant than they need to be.  For example, couples never seemed to dance pas de deux segments that were not about relationship tension.   This might make you too a bit nostalgic for even the most classic ballet pas de deux of lovers like those of Swan Lake. Nor is this the all-over-the map exciting diversity of Giordano Dance, the startles of male dancers on full point, or the other-continent aesthetic jolt of Grupo Corpo or Che Malambo, or even the flirtations with hip hop or acrobatics at times in similarly US-grown Ballet X—some of the many other dance performances gracing Chicago stages recently.  

 

That said, the answer is to see more King choreography, not less.  This is a contribution to the language of dance that rightfully grabs a megaphone for its strong part in the conversation.

 

These performances were part of a 2014/2015 Harris season that has included much dance and which continues.  For information on upcoming events visit the Harris Theater website or call the box office at 312 334 7777.  

 

Harris Theater

Millennium Park

 

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