Alonzo King LINES Ballet hits 40 with another world premiere


Taking a lap of honor is not in Alonzo King’s nature.

It’s not humility or modesty that keeps him from basking in the limelight. On the contrary, the San Francisco choreographer does not stand still long enough for the laurels to gather on his imposing dome. But as her company LINES Ballet prepares for its 40th season, King can’t help but take stock of what turned into a banner year.

More than a milestone, the anniversary comes as something of a crowning achievement for King as his work travels the world with and without his dancers. The fact that LINES received an unprecedented $5 million donation from MacKenzie Scott and Dan Jewett last year means that the company has achieved enviable stability, meaning the king’s cup is overflowing and let him enjoy every drop.

“I feel really lucky and I don’t want to sound grandiose, but it’s an amazing, wonderful life,” he said. “It has been a fully committed career. We have never stopped doing and doing.

LINES Ballet opens its 40th season at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts May 13-22 with eight world premiere performances of a new collaboration with Grammy-winning singer Lisa Fischer performing a commissioned score from pianist Jason Moran. The artistic director of jazz at the Kennedy Center, Moran is among the most famous and visible jazz artists and he has become something of an internal muse for King, with eight previous collaborations since 2009.

Fischer, who won a Grammy Award with her 1991 debut album ‘How Can I Ease the Pain’, was enjoying newfound fame thanks to her starring role in the Oscar-winning documentary ‘Twenty Feet from Stardom’ when she last worked with King on 2015’s “The Propelled Heart,” a 16-section ballet that has become a mainstay in LINES’ repertoire.

For King, Fischer and Moran aren’t just extraordinary artists, they’re “people who share my beliefs about movement and sound,” he said. “Dance and music are the same thing. A dancer is a musician. A musician is a dancer. We come together as partners in a language of the soul, going straight to the mind and the heart.

King’s musical vision took off in 2022, as LINES performed in Austria, Serbia, Italy, Spain and France. London-based Ballet Rambert is performing King’s ‘Following the Subtle Current Upstream’ across the UK this spring, and his work for San Francisco Ballet, ‘The Collective Agreement’, is part of The National. Ballet of Canada’s fall season in Toronto.

Perhaps most gratifying is the achievement of a long-talked-about collaboration with the American Ballet Theatre. ABT art director since 1992, Kevin McKenzie has been trying to get a King order to work for decades, and in his final season, it worked. “Single Eye” premiered in March at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa and is part of ABT’s summer season at the Metropolitan Opera House.

Ordering “Single Eye,” which takes its title from the Gospel of Matthew (“If your eye is single, your whole body will be full of light”), McKenzie got to watch King work with the dancers up close. of the ABT. By placing the ballet on the ABT dancers, King “focused on the very people who could take responsibility for his work, instead of trying to please him and show him what they think he wants to see,” McKenzie said.

“It’s a very kinetic process and when something didn’t work out with one of the couples, I could see they were trying to make it smooth and perfect. One dancer asked, ‘What do you want here ?’ Alonzo said: “It doesn’t matter what I want. It’s your ballet. It’s a job where the dancers have more leeway than usual, and it was a wonderfully organic evolution of a job done in a very different process than what we usually do.

King is also coming to the big and small screens this year. Award-winning filmmaker Drea Cooper’s documentary about the LINES ballet, “Origins,” is set to premiere, as is a new film choreographed by King featuring ballet superstar Misty Copeland and LINES dancer Babatunji Johnson. The company will return to the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in the fall for the world premiere of an Arctic-inspired ballet and a revival of “Rasa” featuring tabla master Zakir Hussain. Does King take too much?

“There are times when it’s explosive and we have to say no to a lot of interesting things,” King said. “We always had to. The demand is so constant, but the magnanimity of saying yes can be hard to resist. This is how I give and contribute to the world, this miraculous life with these incredible artists.

Contact Andrew Gilbert at [email protected]


ALONZO KING BALLET LINES

Features an as-yet-untitled world premiere, starring Lisa Fischer

When: May 13-22

Or: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., San Francisco

Tickets: $40 to $115; linesballet.org/spring-2022

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