Ask Alonzo King about the 170 ballets he has choreographed for the Alonzo King Lines Ballet over the past 30 years and he answers with philosophical questions.
"Dance comes from life," King begins. "So the dancers are always being asked: What does it mean to be human? Who are you? Why are you here?"
As UApresents is bringing the 12-member Lines Ballet to Centennial Hall on Sunday, King is hoping the Tucson audience will attend with the attitude of looking deeper into this performance, seeing more than a surface of finely toned bodies moving around on stage.
"The audience should consider what animates those bodies, what the energy means, where it comes from," King continues on the phone from the dance company's home in San Francisco. "These are important questions."
Ask King about the three decades of success he has enjoyed touring the world, about the 50 dance companies around the globe that include his ballets in their repertoire, the San Francisco Chronicle's proclamation that "Alonzo King is one of the few bona fide visionaries in the ballet world today," and about receiving the 2008 Jacob's Pillow Creativity Award for his contribution to "moving ballet in a very 21st-century direction," and he still answers philosophically.
"The dancers in this company are artists at the top of their game. They don't want to present someone else's dance. They want to bring everything of themselves to their own dance. That is their goal."
As King had outlined earlier, during a 1995 interview, "I wanted dancers to re-examine their existing definition of themselves and their art." These have always been recurring themes in the work of Lines Ballet whenever King talks to the press.
He believes trying to describe his work to others is meaningless, anyway.
"If I talked about an orange, I could name the color, describe the texture," King said. "But it wouldn't say anything about what your experience with the orange would be."
In rehearsals for every new piece, the choreographer encourages his dancers to find their own way. He wants the moves to be natural to the dancers, to come from inside the dancers. Following this process, King believes, will produce a stronger and more emotionally powerful piece.
In Centennial Hall, the Lines Ballet will present a pair of feature-length pieces, "Dust and Light" and "Scheherazade." Both were choreographed in 2009.
"Dust and Light," performed to recordings of Francis Poulenc and Arcangelo Corelli, is built on 14 separate pieces, most of them duets. There is no story structure. Each piece expresses a different set of emotions that sets it apart and locks that group of dancers together.
"Scheherazade" is constructed of eight pieces, with the popular music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov being reinterpreted by tabla master Zakir Hussain. The basic Arabian Nights structure is retained with clever Scheherazade telling stories to keep her evil King Shahryar distracted.
IF YOU GO
• What: Alonzo King Lines Ballet in concert.
• Presented by: UApresents.
• When: 7 p.m. Sunday
• Where: Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd.
• Tickets: $25-$50
• Reservations, information: www.uapresents.org or 621-3341.
Did you know?
Alonzo King chose the name "Lines" to describe his company because "'Lines' alludes to all that is visible in the phenomenal world. There is nothing that is made or formed without a line … Lines are in our fingerprints, the shapes of our bodies, constellations, geometry."
The name is usually all uppercase in publicity materials. King capitalizes the word "lines" to emphasize its importance.
Chuck Graham is a Tucson-based freelance writer. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org