Lines Ballet Fall Season, Novellus Theater, October 14, 2011

22 Oct

Lines Ballet’s Fall season offering was an adroit pairing of the usual Alonzo King premiere, “Resin,” with a revival of his 1998 evocative collaboration with Zakir Hussain, Who Dressed You Like a Stranger.  It provided an introduction for four newcomers bringing the company to an even dozen.

One of Alonzo King’s abiding strengths is a passion for exploring via  gifted collaborations or an unusual theme. He seems to stretch himself as much as he asks the same of his dancers, and he does not appear to lack individuals  to collaborate on one of his two annual premieres.

“Resin”, receiving its premiere October 14, draws its music from various sources of Sephardic musical tradition.  King uses the title with its liquid properties oozing through a tree’s bark as a wound, inflicted by humans, to gather myrrh. [ I have seen resin in Sierra Nevada pines oozing without human interference.] Noted is resin’s use for stringed instruments, the Western violin, the Indian sarangi, for dancers’ shoes giving traction on wooden floors.

With Sephardic music, the implication of the societal wound is strong; cast out from Spain, a cumulative lament for the life lost under Moorish hegemony on the Iberian peninsula. The varied sources, always evocative, include Jordi Savili and archival music from Israel’s National Library.

The cultural ache embedded in improvisational  melismas is underscored by Axel Morgenthaler’s lighting design; Robert Rosenwasser’s trunks could suggest male servitude and nothing particular for the women’s tunics,  a possibility lost.

Newcomer Victor Mateos Arellano danced a compelling introduction, a dancer
whose musculature and body size was bared and stretched to maximum effect.  Yujin Kim, another newcomer, a KNUA trained-Prix de Lausanne recipient, proved an alluring technician with dazzling pirouettes en attitude. Zachary  Tang promises to be a steady foil for any of King’s intricate pas de deux.

Ashley Jackson continued her unaffected classicism; for all King’s intricate demands she is in the tradition of  Russian-trained ballerinas, unforced, accurate, musical.  While Courtney Henry’s grand jetes are a sentence all their own, Caroline Rocher’s presence in a pas de quatre with three men provides a je ne sais quoi to any technical requirements.

King’s choreography in its usual combination of heightened rhythmic dexterity and pace, has minimal ensembles, impressive when they briefly occur.  The women in King’s ensembles execute almost anything he asks of them, but there is an almost total absence of petit allegro, usually  defining qualities of a feminine dancer.

“Who Dressed You Like a Stranger” was premiered in 1998;  with Zakir Hussein as his musical collaborator, King hit a visual and aesthetic high that lingers. If seen then, who can forget Xavier Ferla spinning forward to the tabla’s insistent rhythm nor Marina Hotchkiss’ strong but fond manipulation of a very limp Yannis Adoniou in the soft singing of MA.  Meredith Webster and David Harvey have sketched it.

Two moments surprise – men and women on stage left and right move in formation towards the center, there to dance briefly, an individualistic ensemble, with Keelan Whitmore immersed in the group and resonance of Hussein’s musicianship.

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