Alonzo King makes some of the most interesting dances anywhere. His LINES Ballet company is more like a modern dance group in terms of size (nine dancers) and style (fierce riffs on abstract themes). But there’s never a doubt, watching his work, that he not only draws from classical ballet technique, but brilliantly transforms it to suit his very unique vision. Before the Blues, a new 15-part dance with a soundscore that includes everything from nature sounds, the voice of actor Danny Glover reading the Bible, spiritual jazz by saxophonist/composer Pharoah Sanders, and archival field recordings drawn from the Library of Congress, sounds like something Alvin Ailey already choreographed 30 years ago, the gospel masterpiece, Revelations. But King’s take on things is more nuanced, complex and fascinating.
Choreographed during a fall residency at the White Oak Plantation in Yulee, Florida that was interrupted twice by hurricanes, King brings the weather onto the stage. You can practically feel the humidity, smell the pine trees and the ocean. The dancers, from company veterans like Maurya Kerr, Chiharu Shibata,and Gregory Dawson, to the newer blood represented by Prince Credell, Drew Jacoby, Brett Conway, John Michael Schert, Laurel Keen and Lauren Porter Worth,offer attack and abandon on stage that is nothing less than thrilling. Confidence is not an issue in this company. Neither is technique. Toward the end of the piece, King gets about as formal as he ever does, arranging his dancers in lines, which keep surging toward the audience and back like a tide. The dance ends with a gorgeous quartet that keeps the dancers more intertwined, for a longer period, than King usually allows. If his own facility and hyperactivity sometimesget the best of him, artistically, smothering things with too much information, here was choreography than coalesced into a calmer final image. The four dancers were like a river of memories traveling off, or ahead. A deep voice called out, “I love you.”
Also on the program was the 1998 work, Who Dressed You Like a Foreigner?, featuring an original recording by Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain.Another excitingly danced, signature work for King, the final duet,Ma, with Laurel Keen and Brett Conway, an extended, almost static Pieta, offered emotional closure on the evening as well as a relief from the accumulation of dervish energy King had delivered over the previous 90 minutes. Snow fell on the still, floorbound couple, there was peace after all the madness.