After viewing the Cleveland debut performance of Alonzo King’s two works, “Scheherazade” and “Resin”, one thought comes to mind. Alonzo King is to Ballet what Picasso is to painting. Mr. King takes the rudimentary classical form of classical dance with which we are all familiar and molds it into a new bold form that allows the viewer to interpret to their personal tastes and biases.
In the course of the Ohio Theatre production one was treated fleetingly to the traditional “on pointe” and “pas de duex” but the conventional bodily forms were blended into a modernistic “curved spine, off center, head and pelvis akimbo” posture that never ceased to flow seamlessly through the space of the stage.
The first piece “Scheherazade” (first performed in 2009) is the ancient retelling through dance and music of the collective Persian, Sanskrit and Arabic stories that make up “1,001 Arabian Nights”. For this eight movement piece, Alonzo collaborated with tabla master Zakir Hussain who re-envisioned the original music of Rimsky-Korsakov while incorporating traditional Persian and Western instruments.
It delves into not just the individual stories of the epic but into the essence of Scheherazade herself, the teller of the tales and captive of the sultan, Shahryar. King and Zakir go beyond the “master-slave” relationship. Scheherazade is a woman of power who is well versed in its uses. Shahryar requires Scheherazade to unlock his heart so that he may love again.
Of most special note is the dance in which Scheherazade and Shahryar are tied to each other by a short piece of rope around an ankle. It soon becomes blurred as to who is in control and yet in the end, it is the loss of control to total surrender that allows true love to appear.
After a short intermission, the company of twelve returned to the stage to perform “Resin” (first performed in 2011). It is made up of fifteen vignettes of dance set to Sephardic Jewish musical themes with the far flung influences of Europe (Italy and the Balkins) as well as Arabic and Turkish tonalities. It is from the collection of early-music artist Jordi Savall who brings to light rare and one of a kind personal recordings for the various dance sequences from his collection of true world music.
It begins with what looks like a number of bodies working to escape from a cone of light (made up of a light stretchable plastic). As the cone ascends, you find only one dancer standing there. The sequences of dance then move through several manifestations ending with what represents “the tears of the resin tree” raining down on the stage and dancers in a dramatically choreographed sequence of light, music and sound.
This is the very first time that Alonzo King has brought the LINES Ballet Company to Cleveland (although they did perform at Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall six years ago). This performance (part of LINES Ballet’s 30th anniversary tour) is co-presented by DANCECleveland and PlayhouseSquare.
The various sets and costumes, combined with the lighting, were designed to be modest yet compelling to the eye allowing the viewer to form his own opinion of what he was seeing. This allowed the sets to become part of the story without competing against it for attention.
Judging by the enthusiastic reaction of the sold out crowd (both performances were sold out) it is hoped by all that Alonzo King becomes a regular feature of the PlayhouseSquare offerings. It should also be noted that a large group of young people were in attendance which always gives hope for the future of the arts in Cleveland.
The LINES Ballet Company is made up of: Alonzo King, choreographer; Robert Rosenwasser, Creative Director; Arturo Fernandez, Ballet Master; G. Chris Griffin, Production/Lighting Director; Michelle Miulli, Company Manager; Colleen Quen and Robert Rosenwasser, Costume Design; Robert Rosenwasser, Axel Morgenthaler and G. Chris Griffin, Production Design and Dancers: David Harvey, Courtney Henry, Ashley Jackson, Yujin Kim, Paul Knobloch, Michael Montgomery, Caroline Rocher, Meredith Webster, Kara Wilkes, Keelan Whitmore, Zachary Tang and Ricardo Zayas.
For more information about LINES Ballet, visit: www.linesballet.org
For more information about DANCECleveland, visit: www.dancecleveland.org
Funding for this presentation is generously provided by:
Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Cleveland Foundation, George W. Codrington Charitable Foundation, George Gund Foundation, Kulas Foundation, John P. Murphy Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Ohio Arts Council.
DANCECleveland, a Cleveland, Ohio based non-profit, is one of a handful of presenters nationally that is dedicated solely to the presentation of modern and contemporary dance. The centerpiece of the organization’s programming is its annual performance series. The performances are surrounded by an array of educational outreach events including artist-run master classes, residency programs, student matinees, pre-performance lectures and post-performance Q&A sessions, designed both to break artistic boundaries and provide community access to the dance aesthetic and dance luminaries that DANCECleveland brings to Northeast Ohio.