Dallas — Conceived by Alonzo King in 1982, LINES Ballet has grown into a thriving, successful, and groundbreaking contemporary ballet company. Based in San Francisco, Ca., King has cultivated a collection of incredible dancers, musicians, and artists. Through their collaboration, they create stimulating performances for audiences across the world. The company is known for King’s unique view of “ballet as a science.” He looks at movement as “thought structures” that can be viewed through the lenses of mathematics, physics, and evolution to develop a new form of balletic expression.
In addition to the company, King’s creativity spills out into the community through the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program, Summer Program, the BFA Program in Dance at Dominican University of California, and the Alonzo King LINES Dance Center. The recipient of countless awards and honors, King is known for his excellence in teaching, choreographic ingenuity, and community involvement. A handful of such achievements include: Dance Masters of America’s President's Award (2013), Jacob’s Pillow Creativity Award (2008), San Francisco Foundation Community Leadership Award (2007), and the New York Bessie Award for Choreographer/Creator (2005).
King began our conversation with the topic of art-makers as “truth seekers.” His process involves asking the fundamental questions “Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” King seeks dancers and collaborators who are also interested in uncovering their own truths to these questions. Something he stressed was the humanity of art. All humans search for their identity, and King’s work reveals the process of such discovery. King went on to say: “LINES is aiming at the bull’s-eye of truth: beauty, feeling, motion, physics, mathematics…this obsession with accuracy—its truth!”
Alonzo King LINES Ballet returns to the Winspear Opera House on June 9, presented in the TITAS season. The company will perform two works: Biophony and SAND. Biophony explores how movement interacts with soundscapes recorded from around the world. With jazz accompaniment, SAND merges ballet technique and the rhythmic tenacity of saxophone and piano.
King spoke with TheaterJones about seeing his artistic vision come to fruition, the art-making process, and his fondness for Dallas.
TheaterJones: Congratulations on the recent 35th year anniversary of LINES Ballet! Looking back, how has the company grown? How would you compare your original artistic vision to what you see today?
Alonzo King: Thank you! My original artistic vision was to remove all that was unnecessary in ballet training, to address more of the humanity that exists in dance, to input a “naturalness,” and take out any artifice or unnecessary tension. And also to introduce ideas to stir minds and to open hearts. In the 35 years that we’ve been doing this, our aim has been two words: to do more, and better. And I think what has happened over this time is things have become clearer, more concise, more understood, and richer. And we want to continue to do more and better. I think one of the important observations over this period has been the realization that we don’t do anything. We’re not the doers. Our job is to put out effort and to excavate—because everything is already made. But I think you get to a point where you realize that you don’t know a damn thing! And that’s a beautiful, beautiful place to get to, because when you realize this, you’re starting to get off your high horse, and approach some whiff of humility, and how important that is in the quest for expansion. You realize that most of what you so-called “made,” was discovery! You learn to get out of the way, to listen more, to tune into what is urging the creative process, and realize that you are not the doer.
Throughout your journey, growth, and success, it seems that you continue to return to Dallas. Why Dallas?
Dallas has a very rich audience of dance lovers. And when I say rich, I mean mentally wealthy. There is an abundance of dance that has come from Dallas—so many artists, so many dancers, so many teachers, so many admirable institutions that teach dance at a high level. And there’s a huge audience of so many serious dance lovers. It’s one of the hubs in America where dance is really venerated. We’ve had a relationship coming to Dallas—we love it, we want to continue it. We love the audience there, and we’re really looking forward to being on that stage.
Speaking of being on the stage, what do you hope audience members will learn from your performance?
There’s a saying from the Talmud that I love. And it says: “we see things not as they are, we see things as we are.” And so what we can do is offer our best, and not worry about the results. That’s one of the most difficult things to learn as a human being. With your best intentions, with your best offerings to serve humanity, you cannot look back and say, “what was the return on that investment?” That’s not the way to go. You give—you give your best, and you move on! What people see and how they respond, that is their creative license. You do the work, and not worry about the result. It’s a difficult place to get to, but it’s the place to go.