When dancers compliment each other, they will often refer to lines. “She has beautiful lines” is a way of saying that a dancer’s body makes lovely shapes. To choreographer Alonzo King, these lines are more than aesthetic assets; they are the skeletons of an alphabet that spells out the ideas he wants to convey to his audiences. King’s San Francisco-based LINES Ballet will visit Israel for the second time as part of the 2013-14 season at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center.
“Because of the kind of work we do, the alphabet has to be clear because form is symbology. The form has to be legible,” said King in a recent interview with The Jerusalem Post. “In the history of LINES there have been all kinds of body types and dancers with different strengths. Most training today is so body specific that if you find someone who believes in their voice, it is someone who is powerful and went against the grain, and I’m very drawn to that.”
Though their lines are of great importance, to King’s dancers steps come second to meaning.
“In the deeper part of the training, the dancers obsess with meaning because everything is about something,” explained King. “They are referencing ideas that are so large that we have to reduce them to symbols so that people recognize them on a subconscious level. The dancers are not thinking about themselves; they are harnessing ideas so that the ideas can be transferred. They are working on a very deep level. The same way that we would see an aged singer from any culture and you would think that it’s beyond words. The essence is so clear, that they have a universal platform. They are not showing their bodies; they are using them as instruments of communication. They are trying to get out of the way so that something deeper can come in.”
King founded LINES Ballet in 1982.
In the three decades since, the company has circled the globe multiple times, purveying King’s unique take on ballet. King has won a long list of awards for his many ballets, including the Dance Masters of America’s President Award and the Barney Choreographic Prize from White Bird Dance.
During their upcoming visit to Israel, Lines Ballet will perform a two-part program that consists of Resin and Scheherazade.
In the first few moments of Resin, the sound of a distant shofar is heard. This sets into motion a musical journey through Spain, Italy and the Balkans. The tunes of Sephardic Jews meet melodies from all around Europe. Dancers flash on and off stage in quick, energetic bursts of footwork.
Scheherazade takes the audience into the Arabian Nights. The story tells the tale of a special woman who softens the heart of a cruel and violent leader. Originally commissioned by the Monaco Dance Forum as part of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, LINES’s Scheherazade offers a new perspective on a classic tale.
“Five years ago, like so many people in the ballet world, Jean- Christophe Maillot, director of the Monaco Dance Forum, wanted to create an homage to Ballets Russes and Diaghilev,” said King. “I told him that I loved that music of Scheherazade. He said that it was what he was going to work on as well. So we decided that we would both do it.”
For his version of Diaghilev’s classic ballet, King called on tabla master Zakir Hussein to reinterpret the original score by Rimsky- Korsakov.
King could not say how long the process for this work was, only that it involved a great deal of research, thought, collaboration and soul searching.
“I began to ask ‘Who is Scheherazade?’” said King.
“Scheherazade is the image of the divine mother. She is the healer.
She is the figure of transformation for women. That was very powerful to me, and that is illustrated in the ballet.”
LINES Ballet will perform at TAPAC from November 13 through November 16. For more information, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.