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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Alonzo King Lines Ballet Embraces the Exalted Body, Rejects Silent-Film Fairy-Tale Formula

Posted By on Thu, Oct 20, 2011 at 1:00 PM

Keelan Whitmore and Caroline Rocher of the Lines Ballet
  • Keelan Whitmore and Caroline Rocher of the Lines Ballet

The Alonzo King Lines Ballet is a true San Francisco institution, not only because it has been around for nearly 30 years, but because it embodies the diversity of San Francisco in almost every aspect of its existence. Not too long after San Francisco Ballet's Evelyn Cisneros, a Mexican woman, was still having to powder her skin white, Lines was proudly racially diverse. The music King choreographs to ranges from classical European to traditional Moroccan and Central African and more. His choreographic style combines classical ballet's discipline and grace, as well as the primacy of the beautiful line (fittingly, considering the name) with flashes of athleticism and the wider gestural vocabulary of modern.

The company's season opened over the weekend and continues at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts through Oct. 23.

Alonzo King and Laurel Keen
  • Alonzo King and Laurel Keen

As for diversity, even the body types of the dancers show more inclusivity than your regular classical ballet company: Some dancers are as lithe and seemingly delicate as Balanchine could have dreamed of, while others are as spectacularly muscled as Olympians.

Victor Mateos Arellano
  • Victor Mateos Arellano

In Lines, the centuries-old art form of ballet is honored and revitalized with every new work King creates in his venerable repertoire. People wary of the silent-film hammery, exhausted fairy tale subjects, and corny lampshade skirts of so much of the classical repertoire come to Lines for nuance, ambiguity, the challenge of interpreting physical expression beyond mime and, of course, the beauty of the exalted body.

Cory Scott-Gilbert and Drew Jacoby
  • Cory Scott-Gilbert and Drew Jacoby

Featured in Lines' fall season is the new ballet, "Resin," set to music of the Sephardic tradition, which basically means the music created when the Sephardic (branch of Judaism) diaspora met Yemen, Morocco, Spain, Turkey, etc.. Also revisited is King's 1998 work, "Who Dressed You Like a Foreigner?". Both feature music by tabla master Zakir Hussain.

Keelan Whitmore
  • Keelan Whitmore

Lines has also had some of the best publicity photographs of any theatre, working with the likes of Franck Thibault, Marty Sohl, and RJ Muna to create shots that are in themselves works of art, still images that convey the dynamism of the body, and, well, provide us with close-ups of bodies that will make you think twice about skipping your next bikram class.

The Alonzo King Lines Ballet fall season continues through Oct. 23 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Admission is $15-$65.

For more events in San Francisco this week and beyond, check out our calendar section. Follow us on Twitter at @ExhibitionistSF and like us on Facebook.

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Larissa Archer

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