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BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza

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Final performances of the "Dance At Dusk" Series. Guest Performers Tiler Peck & Roman Mejia with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet Company

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza

During the interim, after our long COVID restrictions in Los Angeles began to lessen, The Music Center and with the generosity of Glorya Kaufman and her continual support for Dance, created a fabulous summer program for Los Angeles, entitled "Dance At Dusk" in the outdoor area in between the three theatres, the Ahmanson, the Mark Taper Forum and the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The tentative plans are to open up the theatres for live performances in the near future.

"The Jerry Moss Plaza" was created to present outstanding dance performances this summer, in a beautiful setting, culture, abounding all around, and the intense longing to see live and electrifying performances of hope, beauty and talented visionaries. There is a beautiful stage erected in the middle of the Plaza facing west, so as the sun was setting behind the stage, the performance began.

No disappointments whatsoever with this fourth and final offering with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet Company. Indeed, the talent, the expertise and the intent of this stellar dance company is incomparable! The technique of every member of the company, with every movement they make, will fill you with awe. Stunning flexibility, extension, ballon, reach, strength, endurance, passion and fluidity is masterfully executed.

Adji Cissoko and Michael Montgomery. in The Personal Element
Adji Cissoko & Michael Montgomery in The Personal Element​​​​​​
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Watching Alonzo King's gorgeous dancers, I was reminded of Luigi's beloved phrase "never stop moving," because everything flowed continually, no matter what transition or position was occurring. Mr. King manages and succeeds to meld different dance styles together in a most natural way. They are contemporary or modern, jazz, even a hint of Hindu, Indian, Egyptian, and Afro-Caribbean blended tenderly with exemplary classic ballet technique. The isolated movements; very linear sometimes, rooted in ballet technique but mixed in with flexed feet, wrists; turned in sometimes, with sharp angles versus reaching past each extremity and stretching to the fullest in pleasing and extraordinary "lines." I would imagine that technical perfection is mandatory and a prerequisite to be a dancer in Alonzo's Company. The company is young, vibrant, and so immersed in this amazing style of blending classical with varieties, contemporary, and making it flow from beginning to end.

From the first piece presented, through the entire non-interrupted program, each piece was more satisfying than the one before. First of all, just to be outdoors, mask-free, vaccinated, at sunset, settling into dusk on a cool, breezy Southern Cal evening, along with others spaciously seated in pods that love Dance, is nothing to shake a dance master's cane at.

"The Personal Element," had many sections to it. Beautifully danced by these incredible dancers: Adji Cissoko, Madeline DeVries, Lorris Eichinger, James Gowan, Ilaria Guerra, Maya Harr, Alvaro Montelongo and Michael Montgomery. The music, by jazz artist Jason Moran, began on one note played on the piano, repeatedly, becoming a rhythm, sparking short spurts of movement; a ballerina balancing on pointe, combinations of port-de-bras driven positions, sharp accents, each dancer doing their own individual combos.

The costuming, by Robert Rosenwasser, who is also Co-Founder and Executive Director of LINES Ballet, was very simple and well-suited. Warm-up dancer-casual, at first; and it seemed as though the dancers had just randomly gone out on stage and started to do their own individual pre-show warm up, but this soon morphed into more regular attire, adding a little splash of color to the stage costume wise and more dancing as a unit. This transitioned into couples, partnerwork, and varied lifts commencing all at different times while the piano is trilling, becoming a flittery, jazzy piano solo as Adji Cissoko and Michael Montgomery perform a captivating pas de deux.

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza
NYCB Prima Ballerina Tiler Peck Special Guest Performer

Each dancer was highlighted in the many different sections, sometimes soloing, or in different groupings. While one dancer was soloing, many times the other dancers would be on the floor in various unified positions, usually making a formation and changing locations on stage every short while. I got a little lost and found this distracting to the overall feel or intent. There were many virtuoso turns, with triple pirouettes, exquisite leaps, paunches, and grand jetes' accompanied by an increasingly rich, full-sounding melody, that highlighted each of their fortes.

This piece World-Premiered in August of 2019 at the Vail Dance Festival, and was created by Alonzo King on his company dancers as well as NYCB Dancers.

What I gleaned from this was that you can blend in in some situations, as might be appropriate, but you've got to be your true organic self to stand out and really shine. That "personal element..."

The next offering was an Excerpt from "Writing Ground," entitled "Over My Head," danced most gorgeously by Ashley Mayeux, (Complexions Ballet, Alvin Ailey Company) and sung by the supremely passionate Kathleen Battle. The orchestration was filled with harp and piano glissandos and runs as she expressively interpreted the words to the gospel song in modern movements, contracting deeply and using the strength in her arms to praise and rejoice, "Over my head I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere." She is pliable, flexible and passionate in a bright yellow dress, even acrobatically, in slow motion, beginning a half handstand developpe'ing out into a split and then a walkover, slow and most elegantly as she gives her all in glory, and expresses the human need for hope and inspiration in times of strife. We can all now personally relate.

The exquisite bodies of the amazing dancers in Alonzo's Company are all rightly meant to be seen. The choreography is such that every movement has a significance, and the costuming is all important to allow that to be seen. The costuming was enhancing, subtle, and perfect for each performer for this display of extraordinary talent.

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza
Tiler Peck & Roman Mejia in Swift Arrow

In the piece entitled "Swift Arrow" special guest and New York City Ballet's Principal Dancer

Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia performed the live premiere of the new pas de deux, specifically choreographed by King for the two NYCB colleagues. The mesmerizing music, again composed by Jason Moran, is more uptempo and avant-garde, giving the duo sharp accents to hit, yet gliding into modern flowing lines.

Strong in movement but flowing through each to the next, the dancers are well-suited for each other in a conga-driven, absolutely beautiful pas de deux, impeccable partnerwork, strong overhead lift and each soloing, showing off their polished skills that blend as lovely as their movements do. The words I kept repeating in my mind, were "gorgeous LINES" throughout the piece....

An Excerpt of a piece "The Radius of Convergence" was performed by five outstanding soloists that melded together in this piece, yet each a standout when soloing. The music, by Edgar Mayer, was intense at times, very dynamic. The choreography was fascinating and visually pleasing, converging into different lines whether they be all in one line or juxtaposing each other in different positions and placement. The dancers, Lorris Elchinger, Madeline DeVries, James Gowan and Alvaro Montelongo kept the poses and footwork tight and their inventive formations sharp; even forming a tiller line and other forms of line convergence that kept everything moving. In the middle of the stage, surrounded by the others at first, and then blissfully soloing around and through the radii of convergence, Michael Montgomery exceeds expectations as he nimbly and precisely counters the others with flowing moves, leaps and a charisma of mystique and sensuousness.

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza
Michael Montgomery & Adji Cissoko in Grace

An Excerpt of "Grace" is danced barefoot to aria-like phrases; to the composition "Pie Jesu," a requiem hymn composed by Gabriel Faure' that soars with devotion and intensity. The versatile and emotive dancers, Adji Cissoko, Ilaria Guerra, Ashley Mayeux and Michael Montgomery who prominently solos throughout are astonishing as they vacillate between styles, using beautiful, flowing port de bras mixed with intricate hand flicks at the end of a movement and squared-off lines, as Montgomery executes flawless triple pirouettes, dropping to his knees, clenching his fist in emphasis, while a male dancer in a skirt swirls around them all, flamboyantly putting a nice button on the end of the piece.

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza
Tiler Peck solos in Child of Sky & Earth

"Child of Sky and Earth" is the solo piece created especially for Tiler Peck by Alonzo King, music once again by his collaborator Jason Moran and Gregory Porters' soulful vocals all enhance the depth to this piece.

In a gossamer slip of a dress, her long hair free and loose, she expresses through her body the mood of the piece, moving in opposition sometimes, gracefully exuding airiness, lightness, almost like she was sprinkling fairy dust to spread the feelings she emotes. It is artistically masterful choreography completely tailored to Ms. Peck's many terpsichorean attributes. What a beautiful dancer she is. She floats through the air and slowly exits as our hearts are filled.

"Rasa" is an electrifying number, driven by conga drums, quica and other percussion sounds, composed by Zaire Husain with Kala Ramnath. The technically difficult choreography seems effortless to these dancers as they switch groups, taking turns in a sort of challenge as a vocal chant floats in and their frenetic energy intensifies,

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza
Michael Montgomery in RASA

the conga drums beating faster and faster as the lines become more flexed, contorted and more extreme. Afro rhythms accelerate the wildness overcoming their spirits and they are being beckoned to the call of the drumbeats, even more intense now, as they chaine and pirouette across the stage, culminating in Michael Montgomery seemingly going berserk, his cohorts joining in, ending in free-spirited ecstasy.

The crowning piece des resistance for the evening was "Epilogue Pas." Music again by Jason Moran, a duet danced by the ethereal Adji Cissoko and by this time, audience-favorite Michael Montgomery. A lovely, slow piano melody begins as they pas de deux together. Again, the gorgeous, strong technique stands out. Beautifully timed inside attitude turns by Montgomery, as he then holds her extended leg, and they caringly exchange a give and take of allowing the other to lean on them for support. ThIs is all so demonstrably in tune with the music, the melody and the dancers all flowing together, not missing a nuance.

BWW Review: ALONZO KING'S LINES BALLET - EXQUISITENESS IN MOTION at The Music Center/Jerry Moss Plaza
Michael Montgomery & Adji Cissoko in Epilogue Pas

All Choreography was created by Alonzo King, all Costumes designed by Robert Rosenwasser and lighting designs by Jim French, Axel Morgenthaler, A.J. Guba, Alan Lortie and Danielle Colburn were done magnificently for this outdoor stage.

LINES Ballet is based in San Francisco, CA.

Alonzo KIng LINES Ballet was created with "the purpose of touching hearts and stirring minds through dance and embraces a spirit of inquiry and openness to change combined with a reverence for legacy and history."

As an organization, Alonzo King LINES Ballet:

"Recognizes that art lives within each and everyone of us

Strives to balance law and intuition;j

Believes in the full potentiality of the human being;

Invests in imagination and creativity."

Alonzo King is a master of artistry. His dancers help create his dreams. And we had the divine pleasure of watching them perform them.

To explore Alonzo King LINES Ballet Company: https://linesballet.org/

To learn more about The Music Center: https://www.musiccenter.org/tmc-offstage/

Photos Courtesy of John McCoy for The Music Center


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