Alonzo King's LINES Ballet

May 1, 2007

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet
The Joyce Theater

May 1–6, 2007

Reviewed by Susan Yung

In Migration, the dancers in San Francisco-based Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet at times mimic birds (among other creatures), and aptly so. Like birds, the company members often flit about the stage independently, coming together in a flock on occasion. But even then, each dancer interprets King’s peculiar and gorgeous style with such individuality, an ensemble passage can look like a series of 10 similar solos. King cherrypicks the most beautiful and audacious moves from ballet’s vocabulary and puts together flowing phrases that are hyper-articulated and stretched to the limit. Speaking of limits, his performers seem not to possess physical ones, floating their legs skyward as if weightless, and projecting a hand’s spiraling line into infinity. King has a strong choreographic vision, but its repetitive, high-intensity virtuosity can foil total enjoyment.

Nine dancers lie on the stage at the start of Migration, flopping like beached fish. After rising to their feet, they adapt quickly, legs unfolding in endless développés, and spinning rapidly in front attitudes. The sound of loons is heard (in the soundtrack by Miguel Frasconi and Leslie Stuck) and the dancers cluster, picking their way across the stage on relevé and flapping their arms. A couple shows the choreography’s inventiveness as he lifts her in a crouch, promenades her on one toe as she is folded in half, and again as she hooks a leg over his shoulder. Aesha Ash stood out for her flawless technique and generous, unhurried pacing, never overextending things; Benjamin Wardell and Brett Conway also excelled at King’s demanding style. The fast, loose-jointed John Michael Schert ultimately took the lead, climbing a rope ladder in some sort of evolutionary advancement as the curtain fell.

The Moroccan Project
featured a commissioned score of lively, percussive Gnawa music by Yassir Chadley, Bouchaib Abdelhadi, and Hafida Ghanim. This 15-part work demonstrates King’s particular brand of sinewy, explosive ballet. But after Migration, several acts through The Moroccan Project, the effect was somewhat numbing. King played with the stage environs, letting one dancer explore the rectangular niche in the upstage brick wall of the Joyce. Two women gesticulated madly in a silent conversation. And when one woman tried to break through a gang of men forming a barricade, the narrative humor was jarring, coming toward the end of a dense program that was otherwise serious and largely abstract.