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By Fabiana Gutierrez
Fluid. Sexy. Vibrant. Powerful. Unpredictable. Transcendent. All of these adjectives are often used to describe American choreographer Alonzo King’s dance movements. However, as confirmed by his long-standing career as a dancer and ahead of the famous Alonzo King LINES Ballet company for 35 years, the purpose of his work is to go beyond appearance and superficiality in order to reveal the essence behind it. His choreography is designed to achieve something much deeper through movements full of content.
Known for his avant-garde artistic insight, Alonzo King is considered one of the most important choreographers of our times and has been changing the way we look at classical dance. His work has been recognized for its impact on the very cultural fabric of both San Francisco, where his company is based, and around the world.
Regarded by his peers as a visionary and the great reinventor of classical ballet, King offers audiences a new language stemming from the rigors of ballet, but in an exuberant and flexible form, presented through geometric shapes.
For him, ballet is not a style but a “science of movement”. His works are classified as “thought structures”, where disciplines such as architecture, mathematics, and medicine blend into the art of dancing. All this may seem somewhat complicated in theory, but all it takes is a glimpse of his choreography to understand how it all fits together perfectly and makes absolute sense.
Alonzo King ’s unique vision of dance is inherently linked to his background. His first memory of a touching movement was watching how “beautifully” his mother moved. And, as he usually mentions in interviews, when he would hear grown ups talking, as a child, he remembers their mouths saying one thing while their bodies said another. And so he began to believe in the body.
Born in Georgia in 1952 and coming from an African-American family recognized and engaged in the struggle for equality of social and political rights, King grew up in a culturally rich environment, surrounded by prominent figures. His father, Slater King, inspired and helped advance the cause of civil rights, and his mother, Valencia King Nelson, founded AfriGeneas, an organization dedicated to African ancestry.
King began his dance studies in Santa Barbara, California, and later on continued his training in New York, where he developed his career working for prestigious companies such as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and the Dance Theatre of Harlem, among others.
In 1982, King moved to San Francisco and founded Alonzo King LINES Ballet, where he established himself as one of the most respected choreographers in the United States and led a distinguished career, receiving numerous awards. Among them, he was named a “San Francisco Treasure” by the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society. In addition to working with his own group, King also collaborates with other companies that have very different styles from one another, such as the Royal Swedish Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Ballett Frankfurt and Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.
Called a choreographer with “astonishing originality” by the New York Times, King’s primary source of inspiration is nature, creating pieces based on a broad set of global cultural traditions.
This multiculturalism is an essential part of his work. From Arab melody to Indian music, from jazz to classical music, he has collaborated with distinguished composers, musicians, and visual artists from across the globe. His work Scheherazade, for example, is the result of a partnership with Indian musician Zakir Hussain. On the other hand, the Dust and Light performance brings all the expressiveness of Arcangelo Corelli’s baroque music.
In addition, LINES Ballet features a multiracial cast that should serve as a model for all other dance companies, with diversity and an artistic quality that never cease to amaze us with every new creation.
This year, the company celebrates its 35th anniversary and King continues to show us groundbreaking, significant and relevant works around the world. Three of his creations are already available to watch on Cennarium.
Lines are everywhere in the world, from our fingerprints to constellations. There is nothing in the universe that is not formed from a line, whether it’s straight or round, and Alonzo King ’s company name, LINES, clearly remits to infinity and eternity. No wonder his choreography reflects all the geometry and the fluidity of lines.