Ilaria Guerra auditioned for LINES four times before joining the company. Photo by Kyle McKee, Courtesy Mona Baroudi
Ilaria Guerra only joined Alonzo King LINES Ballet in January, but she's already a towering presence in the San Francisco company—and not just because she's 6' tall. Guerra employsher seemingly infinite limbs with luscious fluidity and propulsive power, instinctive musicality and a self-assured presence. And as exquisitely as she embodies King's choreography, she also makes it entirely her own.
Dance Magazine's December 2018 cover girl: Adji Cissoko. Photographed by Jayme Thornton
Adji Cissoko has the alchemical blend of willowy limbs and earthy musicality you expect from a dancer in Alonzo King LINES Ballet. But she also has something more—a joy in dancing that makes every step feel immediate.
"She has this soulful quality of an ancient spirit coming through her body," says LINES chief executive officer Muriel Maffre, a former prima ballerina with San Francisco Ballet. "She's fearless, which is fun to work with," says artistic director Alonzo King. "I don't know how to put it into words— she's herself."
Xenos, Akram Khan's final full-length solo, is an ode to the soldiers of World War I. Photo by Nicol Vizioli, Courtesy Sadler's Wells
We might have gotten a little bit carried away with this year's "Season Preview"—but with the 2018–19 season packing so many buzzy shows, how could we not? Here are over two dozen tours, premieres and revivals that have us drooling.
The way you start your morning can set the tone for the rest of the day. Establishing a productive and mindful morning routine can leave you feeling relaxed, grounded, and ready to take on the day ahead, no matter how busy.
We asked five professional dancers to share what they like to do each morning to prepare themselves for the happiest and healthiest day possible.
LINES Ballet company members Adji Cissoko and Shuaib Elhassan in rehearsal.
At 5'10" I felt like an ant in the studio with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. The San Francisco-based company is full of statuesque dancers whose passion is infectious. Every story was told not only through their movement, but through the expression on their faces and their connection to one another.
We talked to artistic director Alonzo King about his love of collaborations and why he thinks politicians need to dance more.
For many students, attending a summer intensive can offer the chance of a lifetime to focus exclusively on dance and experience the rigorous lifestyle of a pre-professional dancer. But with so many options and increasing competition, auditions can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, we gathered insider tips from three top summer program directors.
Muriel Maffre. Photo by Steven Gregory, courtesy LINES
Muriel Maffre is no less elegant up close in pedestrian clothing than she was onstage in glittering tutus. Since retiring from San Francisco Ballet, where she danced as a principal from 1990 to 2007, Maffre has been deeply involved in the Bay Area arts community. She has taught and worked at Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Stanford University, Richmond Arts Center and, most recently, the Museum of Performance + Design, where she served as executive director.
Earlier this month, Maffre returned to LINES as its CEO. A week after starting her new position, we caught up with her to talk about life after ballet, her foray into the museum world and her excitement to helm an organization she loves.
At six feet tall, Courtney Henry cuts an unforgettable silhouette across the stage. Diligent attention to detail and an ear for syncopation allow her to traverse memorably through the solos and duets of Alonzo King’s work. Articulating impossibly long limbs, attuned like the antennae of a creature in unknown territory, there seems no limit to this Alonzo King LINES Ballet dancer’s potential.
“Her stellar attributes and humility supply all the ingredients needed in a recipe for greatness.”
Company: Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Hometown: West Palm Beach, FL
Training: Palm Beach Ballet Center, The Ailey School, Ailey/Fordham BFA Program
Accolades: Youth America Grand Prix “Stars of Tomorrow” finalist, 2013 Princess Grace Award
Breakout moment: Henry celebrated her one-year anniversary with the company when LINES performed Scheherazade and Resin at the Joyce Theater in May 2012. Working through performance anxiety that she describes as “Mt. Everest–sized fears,” a recent breakup and a dance partner with the flu, Henry responded with abandon. Her lack of confidence dropped with her first entrance on to the stage, spurred on by an inner fire that surprised even her.
In King’s eyes: “Early in her training she decided that she was going to be herself. And she has remained true to that, not in indulgence but in the constant search for her unique contribution to the field.”
Challenges: Due to her long limbs, Henry did not receive many opportunities to work on partnering during her training. Though she is now fortunate to be in a tall environment at LINES, she says, “partnering is still an issue for me.” Letting her guard down has been difficult. “I have had so much personal growth, and now I am building a relationship with my colleague Robb Beresford. But I still have thoughts: Can he handle my limbs and weight?”
On the horizon: Henry is looking forward to an upcoming LINES collaboration with R&B vocalist Lisa Fischer. And she's excited about her future: "I'm sure I'll be making countless more mistakes, but I’m learning from the journey."
GöteborgsOperans Danskompani rehearsing Noetic. Photo by Tilo Stengel.
The Grass Is Always Greener…
GOTHENBURG, SWEDENSidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s newest work takes on a familiar theme: the need to understand the rules in order to break them. The Belgian choreographer’s Noetic, for Sweden’s GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, explores the human desire to find order, only to long for freedom once that’s achieved. Playing with this idea of building up and breaking down, sculptor Antony Gormley has designed a set with six large rings that support the dancers’ weight and connect to create new structures. Upping the piece’s European cool quotient even further, the dancers are decked out in costumes by Belgian menswear duo Les Hommes. Premieres March 8–April 12 at The Göteborg Opera. opera.se.
Luhrmann Makes a Musical
SYDNEYBaz Luhrmann’s movies owe a debt to Broadway spectacle—Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge! and, most recently, The Great Gatsby jump off the screen with electric colors and drama-fueled plots. But he entered new directing territory when reimagining his first major flick, Strictly Ballroom (1992), for the stage. The pasadoble-filled musical about a champion ballroom dancer premieres on March 25 at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. strictlyballroomthemusical.com.
Strictly Ballroom: The Musical. Photo courtesy AB Publicity.
Lights for LINES
NEW YORK CITY Distraction or enhancement? That’s the question about the LED light set for Alonzo King’s work Constellation. At times, electronic artist Jim Campbell provides a giant pegboard of lights; at others, the dancers cradle individual lights in their hands or feet. Either way, King’s oozy, stretchy choreography is never less than gorgeous, and the dancers of LINES Ballet are never less than compelling. A bonus: Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani will sing live. March 18–23 at The Joyce Theater. joyce.org.
Yujin Kim and Zachary Tang in King’s Constellation. Photo by Margo Moritz, Courtesy LINES.
SAN FRANCISCORobert Moses typically uses his company to showcase his silky contemporary work. But the closing weekend of the Black Choreographers Festival is a rare chance to see Robert Moses’ Kin dancers take on a range of pieces by other artists. His Draft/By series at the ODC Theater includes choreography by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance alum Bliss Kohlmyer, hip-hop/modern dancer Dexandro Montalvo and former LINES Ballet maverick Gregory Dawson. But Moses loyalists need not worry—the artistic director will show a new work, too. March 6–8. bcfhereandnow.
Robert Moses’ Kin preparing for Draft/By. Photo courtesy Robert Moses.
Not Your Momma’s Flamenco
PHILADELPHIA There is a flurry of flamenco festivals this month, but the Philadelphia Flamenco Festival, March 1–16, is a chance to see some of Spain’s most applauded alongside Philly’s own: Local all-female troupe Pasión Y Arte will host and perform; Spanish star Israel Galván, whose dances blend traditional flamenco with theatrical contemporary movement, will show new work; and his sister Pastora Galván will dance, as well. For the truly unconventional flamenco-goer, Sevillian postmodernist Rosario Toledo will stomp up a storm—in sneakers. pasionyarteflamenco.org.
Spain’s Israel Galván. Photo by Felix Vazquezla, Courtey Feischman Gerber & Associates.
NEW YORK CITY You wouldn’t expect the cool, contained formalist Beth Gill to do something huge and dramatic. But this time out, in a work commissioned by New York Live Arts, that’s what she’s aiming for. Her lighting designer, Thomas Dunn, is capable of giving an uncanny feeling of hot and dry, and her dancers succumb to glaring light and spatial vastness. If this is beginning to sound like being in a desert, you got it: The piece is called New Work for the Desert. March 20–22.newyorklivearts.org.
Gill’s dancers in residency for Desert at Florida State University. Photo by Chris Cameron, Courtesy Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography.