ALONZO KING LINES
May 8, 2015
Alonzo King Lines Ballet is the San Franciscan company in which the dancers, some as stretched as giraffes and feral as cats, often look dazed as though they just heard something odd. Their performance at The Joyce Theatre had its unforgettable moments, as well as sections in which the dancers fought to squeeze all the choreography in. King must coach his dancers by feeding them with ideas and thoughts: the sub-current of the three works: “Concerto For Two Violins,” “Men’s Quintet,” and “Writing Ground” is rich with ambiguities.
The Largo, ma non tanto, of Johann Sebastian Bach’s middle section “Concerto For Two Violins” begins in silence. Kara Wilkes, Laura O’Malley, Robb Beresford, Michael Montgomery collapse on each other, rise, slink like a wave. This dance exudes tenderness and resilience despite a great fatigue, as the audience might have also felt after the Vivace section. The Allegro, third section, had a recurring circular arm gesture with an emphatic down swing, defying any classical mood, with a down-home shout to the audience to “Come On Out!”
In “Men’s Quintet,” Montgomery shined in his solo, while Beresford, Shuaib Elhassan, Jeffrey Van Sciver, and Babatunji bonded in a languid way. Midway in this excerpt from “The Radius of Convergence,” the four looked down, upstage, with their left hand on each other’s shoulder, pausing for some time.
Courtney Henry lived her solo in the closing quintet of “Writing Ground” with as much intensity and artistry as any ballerina performing “Giselle.” She seemed deranged, but, was it with ecstasy or terror? Was she on her way to the guillotine or about to meet her creator? Four men tried to keep her on her feet, but she was oblivious to them - crumbling and then rising momentarily to turn on point.
Often times, King obscures the supporting partner(s), either by the lack of eye contact or emotional connection. He choreographs with balletic lines, broken with hints of voguing, the occasional flexed foot or hand, or a suspended contracted leap. What is puzzling is how little freedom he gives his company to respond to his chosen music, either in nuance or mood. In “Writing Ground,” the company danced a frantic piece, in direct contrast to the spiritual splendor of “Gradual of Eleanor of Brittany: Kyrie: “Orbis Factor” by Marcel Peres and Sacred Music Ensemble Organum.
“Writing Ground” was created in 2010 in collaboration with Colum McCann, the Irish novelist/poet based in New York. “Her heart flapped like bedsheets on the clothesline of her years.” being one evocative example of his many lines printed in the program. “She would put her bare hands in the syrup of her own body,” being another. King makes you wonder, move - as much as your seat allows, and applaud the vulnerability of his dancers.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Deirdre Towers