Alonso King’s Fall Season with Lisa Fischer

4 Dec

Alonso King’s fall program premiered November 5 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts’ Lams Research Theater. I went on Friday, the thirteenth, just after the horrific news regarding the Parisian attacks by Islamic terrorists. The audience was warm, near capacity, exuding iys diversity with a definite comfort level which occasionally pervades YBC’s venue. The woman in front of me removed her shoes on arriving in her seat, standing in the aisle with toe painted scarlet.

The music for King’s The Propelled Heart was supplied by Lisa Fischer, a singer who backed The Rolling Stones for many years, been the subject of the 2013 documentary “Twenty Feet From Stardom.” The additional musician was J. C. Maillard. Long time collaborators by Robert Rosenwasser and Axel Morgenthaler conceived. costumes and lighting,

King seems to be content with a dozen dances in his company, though he undoubtedly works with many more dancers at different levels in the organization now including a dance major at Dominican University in San Rafael in addition to the multiple classes and outreach programs occurring at Lines Dance Center on Seventh Street just off Market Street in San Francisco.

The current company lists 3 dancers joining in 2011, 4 in 2013 and 2014; Brett Conway has returned after some four years with Nederlans Dance Theater. Yujin Kim has returned from being out a season with an injury. There is height among three women as well as mid-size and a tigerish virility among the men; King fully exploits that quality. Most have come with experience; King has refined and extended technique and attack in his particularly total style. It was fully on view in “The Propelled Heart.”

Lisa Fischer herself I would guess is under five feet five, with a build solidly maternal, hair closely cropped, vocal tones and range amazing, from strong declarative sound to the high pitched tonal wail. It is a native province of African Americans and of the Indian sub-continent; both share the haunting habit of the melisma, the embroidery around one note or one sound pitch. Dressed in a dusty maroon toned stole with what I understand were ostrich feathers [animal rights?],a two-tiered over blouse over slacks, she wandered around, behind, through and in the center of the troupe, according to the song and the sounds of J. C. Mailliard’s music,

Somewhere I picked up that Maillard’s music has not only been influenced by African rhythms, but that he resides at least part of his time in the Caribbean. His responses were well aligned to Fischer and to King’s capacity to emphasize or isolate parts of the human torso within the technical of the highly western classical ballet vocabulary. In listening to Maillard’s background contribution, I would swear I heard something of the Korean vertical flute, the taegum. I would hope so. As with most of the Korean musical threads, the plaintive, evocative qualities echo into what otherwise would be a percussive, declarative statement, balletic or otherwise. The Koreans, mind you, take backseats to no one in their talent for drumming.

What did I see, and what was most memorable? Clearly, King’s capacity to enhance, enlarge and expand a dancer’s ability to articulate movement. It’s never just releve, passe, or releve attitude or arabesque. Something happens along the way, or at the beginning or conclusion – a special display of ankle or foot, a nuanced ripple down the torso, a bending from shoulders to hips and then a leisurely unwinding from this position into the traditional vertical posture. There was one ensemble moment towards the end of the work where the dancers formed almost a circle on stage; even though the back portion of the circle seemed out of vision, the forward portion evoked the amazing circular movement of bodies in Matisse’s “The Dance,” residing in The Hermitage in St. Petersburg, a compositional draft belonging to MOMA in New York City


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