It was a cold, rainy evening in Park City, but the Park City Institute’s George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Center was abuzz for the evening’s performance by Alonzo King LINES Ballet. LINES was founded in 1982 by eponymous choreographer Alonzo King and creative director/designer Robert Rosenwasser, and has contributed greatly to the form of contemporary ballet in its Bay Area home, as well as nationally and internationally. In addition to influencing the form through his own choreography, King is also noted for his teaching style and school, whose faculty who imbue critical thinking and freedom to make choices in their approach to ballet as an ever-evolving, relevant art form.
LINES presented three of King’s works on the evening’s program: Concerto for Two Violins (music by Johann Sebastian Bach);Men’s Quintet (music by Edgar Meyers and Pharaoh Sanders); and Biophony (music/soundscape by Bernie Krause and Richard Blackford). All three works exist in the same movement oeuvre: classical balletic forms with modern sensibilities and more turns, balances, twists, and flourishes than would seem humanly possible. King’s dancers, known for being exceptionally long-limbed, execute choreography at breakneck speed and with a coolness that belies the work’s intense physicality. Most notably in Concerto for Two Violins, the dancers radiate the music of Bach from their whirling appendages; an internal focus is common in their approach to choreography, and as each note appears generated by their instrumental bodies, external presentation is almost rendered unnecessary.
All three of the evening’s works are choreographically intricate and each dancer’s virtuoso is individually captivating. But concept appears to have stagnated at LINES: Biophony is King’s latest work and a collaboration with bio-acoustician Dr. Bernie Krause, but it feels less innovative and less interesting than the two older works. Biophony relies heavily on its sound score of animal and nature noises in an attempt to provide a different take on King’s signature style.
To be fair, Biophony’s soundscape does inspire some different, quirkier movement choices, such as a contorted crab walk or twisted, pecking arms. But while the dancers hone in on movements of the animal kingdom convincingly, these choices appear heavy-handed when presented in tandem with a sound score of chirps, squawks, and screeches and as after-thoughts amidst King’s complex choreography. A lecture demonstration on animal habitats comes to mind.
Park City Institute executive director Terri Orr, in her pre-curtain welcoming speech, recalled an anecdote from her conversation with the LINES booking agent. The agent expressed concern (perhaps feigned, but still mentioned) that the company was too “urban” and “edgy” for Utah dance audiences. I am now unsure whether to be insulted as an educated audience member, or concerned about the way the company is being billed to presenters.
LINES’ prominence in the contemporary dance world is indisputable, but in order to be billed as anything close to “urban” or “edgy”, the work presented must be more than digestible contemporary ballet, animalian soundscape or not.
Amy Falls is a choreographer, performer, and the Mudson coordinator for loveDANCEmore. This review, and others by loveDANCEmore are in collaboration with 15 BYTES.