Lines Fall Season at Yerba Buena’s Lam Theatre

11 Nov

Lines’ Ballet appeared at Yerba Buena Center’s Lam Research Theatre October 28-November 3. I saw their performance November 2 comprising two works, one a world premiere, the second a U.S. premiere.

Johann Sebastian Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor formed the basis of George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco, created for the American Ballet tour of South America in 1940, using two women for the violins, a single male to support the leading ballerina, and a small corps de ballet. It therefore took considerable courage to undertake one’s own vision of the work; this is what Alonzo King attempted, largely succeeding. Rita Felciano, one of the area’s most
sensitive dance writers musically, commented, “Alonzo heard Bach.”

Like Balanchine, King’s dancers wore spare black costumes; unlike Balanchine, he employed two men in the largo movement, not simply as porteurs for Meredith Webster and Kara Wilkes. David Harvey and Michael Montgomery had their moments of turns and lunges, and, from the program notes, it appears that some evenings the Vivace feature Webster and Wilkes and others Harvey and Montgomery.

Admittedly, my mind was more or less visually comparing Balanchine’s iconic classicism with King’s individualistic departures from ballet’s vocabulary, but such deviation was invariably cued to the sonorous qualities of the concerto; King supplied a roundness implicit in that aural richness. He made his frequent pumping quality of the port de bras part of that recognition, the buck and wing movement part of the musical line: no small feat. King, in the closest seen to date, incorporated structure into his choreography. In the Vivace, Ashley Jackson’s innate classical accuracy enjoyed its moments as did the vivacity of Caroline Rocher and the passionate stretch of Yujin Kim. Later, other long-time observers remarked to me, “It’s the best thing Alonzo has ever done.”

The second piece, Writing Ground, was commissioned by the Monaco Dance Forum and premiered in 2010 on the Terraces of the Monte Carlo Casino, in what must have been a spectacular out door event. Some of that largeness carries over into the proscenium arch venue carried over three years later. Commissioning contractual limits may be responsible for the three-year hiatus for performing in this country and elsewhere.

Colum McCann, the Irish born writer, is credited as collaborator. Given the title, source and performer of the 14 sections, I hazard it is the tone of the work which McCann supplied; interesting that he provides a devotional ambiance true to the larger Western tradition as in much the same quality Zakir Hussein gave to Who Dressed You As a Stranger?

Much of the music draws on sacred music recordings by Jordi Savall, but also selections from Jewish sacred tradition as well as one credited to the Koran, where Michael Montgomery conveyed some of the “high and lifted up” nature of the subject. Just prior to Montgomery’s solo, the men of the company had danced in Turning of the Soul, evoking the ecstatic qualities of Hassidic mysticism. Yujin Kim appeared twice in solos, her strength and phrasing rendering the musical phrasing monumental.

Other parts were intensely devotional, making me want to see the work a second time, and, if ever possible, with musicians in the pit. Writing Ground , apparently was a precurser or departure in King’s choreography, a preface to the structure more evident in the Double Violin Concerto. It is salutary. I would enjoy seeing the response of the Jerusalem audience to Writing Ground as the company departs for a month-long tour of Jerusalem and France.

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