Alonzo King: Mastering The Art of Dance

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It will be the first time that African American choreographer, Alonzo King, founder and Artistic Director of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet, has performed in the Bronx when he appears at Lehman Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, January 10 at 6:00 p.m.  Born in Santa Barbara, California, Alonzo King's LINES Dance Center claims San Francisco as its home. 

However, King has traveled throughout the world and has works in repertories of companies that include the Frankfurt Ballet, the Hong Kong Ballet and the Swedish Ballet.  Closer to home, Mr. King has worked with the Joffrey Ballet, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre wherein he has performed pieces such as “Following.”  He has worked with the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the North Carolina Dance Theatre and Washington Ballet and has been dance master for the National Ballet of Canada, Ballet West, and Les Ballets de Monte Carlo to name a few.  Coined by Kennedy Center as the Master of African American Choreography, the great dance master is delighted that Lehman Center will be offering $10 tickets to seniors and children 12 and under.

The son of a civil rights leader in the south, King's father was a lover of the arts and passed that love on to his son who became enthralled with the art of dance.  “One of the wonderful things about art is you have the ability to stop thinking about yourself.  When you dance and step into a realm where thought of self is gone, you are relieved, “said King about how the artistry of dance affects him. 

Demanding perfection and mastery from himself and in his troupes' performances, King claims to only work with those at the level of mastership, and as a result has been the recipient of several awards and accolades.  He was given the Jacob's Pillow Creativity Award in recognition of his contribution to moving ballet.  He has been recognized as one of the 50 outstanding artists in America by the United States Artists Organization.  He received the Bessie Smith Award for Choreographer/Creator.  He is a recipient of the Irvine Fellowship in Dance and has received 5 Isadora Duncan Awards.   Mr. King has served on the National Endowment of the Arts and California Arts Council panels.

The dance master expressed his views concerning working with various dance companies.  “I have to say, that when you work in the world of dance, its not so much where you go as it is the artists that you work with.  You are looking for some kind of sympathy, some kind of artistic understanding, so no matter where you go in the world, what you are really concerned with is how your heart is feeling.   I believe the essential beginning of coming together as a people, is to come together with yourself.  People talk about the disharmony in the world, the selfishness of the world, the lack of peace.  That peace has to begin with us as individuals.  We can’t try to fix every one, we are here to change ourselves.  Those people who change themselves are an inspiration to all of us.  It’s essential to break the myths.  The deepest ignorance that most people believe is that as humans we are weak, whinny mortals.  Not true. Inside of us are those indestructible internal forces.  In fact, the whole point of obstacles is to bring those forces out,” pontificated King.

Alonzo disagrees with the classifications under which ballet is termed such as classical, neoclassical and contemporary ballet.  “Those are names like saying light skin, dark skin, and red head, it means absolutely nothing.  Contemporary is an interesting term, since if something has relevance its contemporary.  Shakespeare and Bach are relevant and certainly contemporary because they affect our lives as we live today.  Most people think of contemporary as current living.  To me, truths are current and living and always will be, so they are always constant contemporaries,” explained King.  
“Classical Ballet is usually thought of as a style rather than a science of movement which is what it is.  Its origin has been claimed by Europe but its origin goes much further back.  We forget about the vast magnificence of education that Islam brought to the West, which was not known prior to their arrival via Islamic architecture, science, and mathematics. In fact, Greek literature was hidden in Arabic script.  For example, the arabesque used in ballet -- where do you think that term comes from?  Ballet's lineage is older than people want to acknowledge.  As you know, it’s who writes history who tells the story.  One of the chief destroyers in education is this assumption and position held up as white superiority.  This has slaughtered minds across the globe but this is a situation that will inevitably vanish because it’s laughable, it is so narrow-minded.  This Eurocentric idea of ballet has cut ballet off from its amazing history.  It’s simply dance.  All dance began as a form of worship,” said King who is known for his vast knowledge on the history of ballet. 

“Ballet is an Italian word for dance.  So for me, all dancing is uncategorized.  It’s either good dancing or its not.  From the Western perspective the way we look at the body and what I call western classical dance comes from what already exists in nature.  It is pirouettes which already exist via whirlpools, spirals and eddies.  Dance isn't something someone thought up. It comes from nature.  Dance books suggest ballet started with Catherine DeMenici.  That's ridiculous!  Dance can be found as far back as ancient rituals,” stated King emphatically.

Alonzo served briefly as the Commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco.   He has collaborated with jazz saxophonist Pharoah Sanders and actor Danny Glover and is also a writer and lecturer in his own right.  The Alonzo Kings LINES Ballet attracts huge audiences wherever they perform.  Thus, interested parties in the Bronx can call the Lehman Center box office at 718-960-8833 or go on line at Parking is free.

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