This season, MSU’s Wharton Center celebrates its 40th anniversary in East Lansing, and Alonzo King LINES Ballet celebrated its 40th anniversary in San Francisco. During those years, LINES Ballet has established itself as a major dance force in its hometown. It has toured extensively in Europe and the United States and has had several successful seasons at New York’s prestigious Joyce Theatre. But up until now, LINES Ballet has never performed at Wharton Center.
That makes the company’s appearance here on February 23 a truly special occasion for dance fans. For Alonzo King LINES Ballet will be performing their new ballet, Deep River, a work which “came out of the pain of the pandemic,” King said. It premiered in May 2022, marking the company’s triumphant return to its home at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.
During the pandemic, when theaters all over the country were dark, the company’s dancers had worked at first from the confines of their home studios; later they were able to meet for rehearsals outdoors—in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, or on a farm in the Arizona desert. “The ballet is the result of three years of working and rehearsing in unusual settings,” King said.
King describes the ballet as a “love letter about the difficulty of life on Planet Earth. If our hearts feel dry, we must make the effort to overcome the malaise that we feel. Racism, religious intolerance, eco-destruction—all these keep us from seeing that we are actually kin. If we want a better world, we have to change ourselves.”
King urges his audience “to step into a work and allow your feelings to perceive it. Don’t ask what a work means but realize that the artist is speaking to your internal world. Art is soul language, speaking soul to soul.”
Deep River is danced to an original score by Jason Moran and singer Lisa Fischer, with additional spiritual music from Black and Jewish traditions. Throughout his career, King has choreographed for numerous other dance companies and has collaborated with composers, dancers, and visual artists from around the world. While he has created dances to such composers as Bach and Handel, King has also collaborated with dancers and musicians from the Central African Republic, Moroccan musicians and vocalists, and Shaolin monks.
King says he has called his company “LINES” because “there is nothing that is made or formed without a line…Lines are in our fingerprints, the shapes of our bodies, constellations, geometry…It addresses direction, communication and design. A line of thought. A boundary or eternity … From vibration or dot to dot it is the visible organization of what we see.”
For more details about this performance and tickets head to https://www.whartoncenter.com/events/detail/alonzo-king-lines-ballet
Kate O’Neil is a retired dance reporter for the Lansing State Journal, and a beloved dance figure in the local community. She was inducted into the Lansing Dance Hall of Fame in 2017.