“Migration,” “The Moroccan Project”
Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet
Joyce Theater
New York, NY
May 1, 2007

by Leigh Witchel
copyright © 2007 by Leigh Witchel

Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet is, ironically enough, one of the most resolutely non-linear companies around. Not the lack of physical lines; the dancers all have long, elegant proportions. There are few lines in King’s concept of time; beginnings and ends seem attached as if mere concessions to the audience. His dances are long, episodic washes of middle; hazy dreams and violent reveries.

“Migration,” which had its premiere last year, started in silence with the entire company of four women and five men supine on the floor, and then spasming like salmon fighting upstream. The difficulty of a journey was shown in striking images; the dancers push and pull themselves and their partners as they progress. There was clarity to the dance even though what the journey was or its destination was beside the point; we were looking at moments along the way. The music, a collage of sounds by Miguel Frasconi and Leslie Stuck placed the dance outdoors where birds chirred and the earth breathed. Final progress came when a rope ladder appeared at the close and one of the men laboriously started to climb as the curtain fell. “Migration” felt as outside of time as nature itself; it was easy to lose track of the dance if one didn’t closely pay attention. A piece with a loose structure such as this doesn’t insist on our attention; and the sum of the parts in “Migration” is less than the whole.

The title of the longer second work, “The Moroccan Project,” intimates a project or process that was invisible from the audience. Aside from vague suggestions in the costumes and the evocative music, there seemed little Moroccan about “The Moroccan Project.”  The Joyce stage was stripped of all elements with its brick back wall and alcove exposed; occasionally a dancer would climb into the alcove and stretch. Two thin gold voile curtains hung down off to the side in the back and all around there was a smoky haze.

The men wore brown culottes and were shirtless from the start. In “Migration,” they began with thin shirts that they removed offstage close to the end of the dance. Not that they didn’t look good shirtless, but once upon a time, wasn’t ballet more often accused of being a thin excuse for female nudity?  Here, the women wore demure peach dresses and skirts with a softly wired edge.

Aesha Ash, whose career after leaving New York City Ballet took her to Maurice Béjart before working with King, was in fine form. She danced a dreamy pas de deux in “The Moroccan Project” as if being tossed by dreams in her sleep, as well as a witty section with four men forming a wall with their backs to her.  She tried to break through them and finally managed to topple them only to let down her guard and have them re-form further back. King’s men are leggy; they move voraciously and have long, though not always classical lines.

King’s vocabulary is loosely torqued and extended; aerobic at times but also contemplative. It uses as much turn in as turn out. In a provocative interview a few years ago, King said that “Ballet is not a style. It's a science of movement.” That describes his approach; he takes what he likes from ballet’s placement and technique but little from its aesthetic in a loose intersection with it. There’s a sameness to the approach. As kinetic and watchable as “The Moroccan Project” was, it could have been danced to Navajo chants with dancers in war paint and had much the same effect. The dance was strong; the idea behind it less fully formed.

Volume 5, No. 18
May 7, 2007

copyright ©2007 by Leigh Witchel

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