Alonzo King's LINES Ballet

May 5, 2009

Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet
The Joyce Theater, NYC

May 5–10, 2009

Reviewed by Gus Solomons jr


Meredith Webster and Keelan Whitmore in
Dust and Light. Photo by Marty Sohl, courtesy LINES.


There’s no shortage of luscious, fluent movement in Alonzo King’s choreography for LINES, his San Francisco-based troupe of highly accomplished dancers. King’s infatuation with constant motion has his refreshingly interracial cast stretching, leaping, and body-rippling, often at reckless speeds. His vocabulary synthesizes neo-classical ballet, earth-bound African undulations, and his own eccentric twitches and spasms.


In his new Dust and Light, three women and five men carve complex arcs through space with their honed bodies to an assemblage of liturgical-sounding selections from Francis Poulenc’s “Sacred Choral Music” and several Arcangelo Corelli concerti grossi. But the somber music blunts the dynamic edges of the dancing.

Axel Morgenthaler’s lighting inflects the moods with a glowing sky and piercing beams, made visible in stage mist. Robert Rosenwasser’s mini kilts and booty shorts on the men and translucent, backless shifts on women expose dancers’ sleek physiques. The structure comprises extended transitions—people crossing the space in random groupings—between duets that mix genders indiscriminately and ooze sensuality.

The interactions of dancers and their juxtapositions suggest emotion, albeit abstractly, but the spill of showy steps doesn’t always fulfill the emotional drama it suggests. One provocatively aggressive sexual battle begins with willowy Meredith Webster running up the back of lunging Corey Scott-Gilbert, who’s impressively lean and lanky. The two passionately tangle limbs and toss each other around. But they end abruptly by simply strolling offstage.

Fifteen sections are far too many for a cohesive suite, and random costume changes—a flowing white blouse on a man or two, and chic frocks on the women—make Dust and Light seem like several dances folded into one.

Tabla music by Zakir Hussain lends exotic mystery to the second ballet, Rasa. Here, Rosenwasser dresses the eight in scanty leotards and briefs. Lighting designer Alain Lortie begins with focused beams highlighting each dancer. As the piece proceeds, the rear curtain slowly opens, gradually revealing a golden, textured backcloth.

There are more satisfying passages in this ballet, like a quartet where dancers remain tightly linked. And at the heart of the dance is a gorgeous duet that delivers the emotional journey we’ve been craving: Caroline Rocher and Brett Conway take us through facets—sexuality, trust, comfort—of a turbulent affair and a lasting bond.

If only more of King’s protracted manipulations yielded more such emotional payoffs. But reverting to his impressive showmanship, he ends the ballet with a dazzling male trio, in which Conway, Scott-Gilbert, and David Harvey try to outdo each other, and it brings the audience to its feet.