Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet

I’m having a hard time coming up with anything to say about this evening’s performance by Alonzo King’s Lines Contemporary Ballet Company at the Ferst Center. It was definitely enjoyable, with some spectacular dancing and some very interesting aesthetics, but nothing really stuck with me. I came away impressed but hungry for something a little more.

The first piece on the program, “Biophony,” was set to a collection of sounds from nature collected by Bernie Krause and mixed by Richard Blackford. The sounds themselves were interesting, if a bit cacophonous at times. I think that I’d have enjoyed them more over a better sound system than the one at the Ferst. The choreography was a spectacle of wild movement and shapes that seemed to have roots in various creatures of the animal kingdom without being terribly specific. This wasn’t something that made a coherent interpretation of specific animal movements like Dafora’s “Ostrich” or Fokine’s “The Dying Swan” nor was it an exploration of the concept of any animals like Tara Lee’s “Pavo.” Instead it just looked like King was having a lot of fun with the notion of wild animals. He seemed to have some fun with the costumes, as well: there were several costume changes in the work, with each dancer having three or four costumes. The choreography was impressively athletic and, on an individual level, it was well performed by the dancers although, as an ensemble, there were some timing issues. This is something that persisted in the next piece, as well: the dancers weren’t 100% together. It wasn’t horrible – I generally felt that someone could easily miss some of the missteps and off timing – but it did affect how certain parts of the choreography hit me. In the first piece, for instance, there were moments when the dancers kind of came together and began dancing in unison, as though through natural entrainment, but then would begin to dissolve into individual choreography again. As the synchronized portions began to break down, there would be a brief moment where I thought that someone was screwing up really badly instead of immediately seeing it as shifting to different choreography. This kind of choreographic shift happened enough that I think that they should have been more mindful of how well synchronized they were.

The second piece on the program was “Sand.” This was set to a blend of cool and post-bop jazz by saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianist Jason Moran. This was a bit more emotionally expressive than the previous piece but was still a mostly abstract work. Again, the choreography was athletic and the performers were just as good as before with the caveat of the one fault that I already mentioned. Also, one or two of the dancers seemed a bit wiped out by the end, with one of them slowly getting out of time with the rest, like a metronome with its spring winding down just enough to lose its tempo. Something about this piece made me think that it would be awesome if we had concert dance clubs the way that we have jazz clubs: I’d have loved to have sipped a cocktail at a small table while watching this piece with friends. This piece made use of a pretty interesting backdrop: it was ropes stretched between holder ribbons at the top and bottom. It acted like a screen, where some action could take place behind it, and it also, with a little help from stage hands, occasionally would shimmy in a really delightful fashion, creating a sense of shimmering without any sparkley surfaces.

I really enjoyed everything but, as I mentioned, I came away wanting something more. Either piece would be a great way to open a mixed-repertoire show and I’d be happy to see his work on a program for a repertoire company. For me, though, the pieces were like appetizers for something with a deeper and more coherent conceptual or aesthetic theme. That said, I find myself wondering if, given the large body of work that King has done, there aren’t a few sumptuous entrées to his name that I would enjoy. Regardless, these were a couple of delicious appetizers and I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing another show by this company.

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