Lines Ballet at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Tracings of light on a screen, which is gray like an overcast sky but golden as if shielding sunlight. The light is a dream or the muted ramblings of light behind the eyelid of a closed eye, so intimate as to be subconscious. Two bodies move through the space in dreamlike movement. One body folds into another, curling around. A sudden collapse. A slithering on the floor. A stuttering.

Around the figures rises a watery sound from the sax. Pebbly, like small rocks churning in a rapid current.

Her body makes spidery motions across the floor.

He reaches. She reaches. To touch or not to touch. He sits on the floor while she stands. Music from the sax floats by like smoke.

What the dancers describe is a world of gravity and nuclear forces working constantly on the mass of the body. Is there a text? Do we read their bodies—separately and in relation? And if we do, what stories do they tell us?

These are the questions and the moments of Lines Ballet. And the answers are with us, the viewers, though the choreographer claims there is a moral: “There’s a theme in my life about resurrection, about your love having to be stronger than your heart.” But these bodies in theatrical space, collapsing and unfolding, are speaking a language that is constantly interrupting itself. Like someone running from and then back toward you. What you project on them—how your read their unspoken motives—is what you finally understand.

These past two weekends Lines Ballet presented its fall program—three pieces: two new, two using the jazz improvisations of Pharaoh Sanders as part of their musical background—at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. It was essential Lines, working from a vocabulary of gesture and movement that is idiosyncratic and characteristic of its choreographer, Alonzo King. As always the dancers were superlative, with a precision and muscular control that was awesome.

This was also jazz saxophonist Sanders’ second collaboration with choreographer Alonzo King. “Pharoah was a hero of mine,” comments King. “There’s a comfort with Pharaoh. He’ll come do something different every night.”

Most people find comfort in routine, rather than change. But change—witnessed in the fragment movements of the choreography that are constantly contracting and expanding as the dancers move—is King’s kinetic principle.

That and a smoky sensuality, which can also be found in Sanders’ musical figurings.

The program’s second piece, The Steady Articulation of Perseverance, which featured the company’s longest limbed dancers, gallant Corey Scott-Gilbert and beautiful Muriel Maffre, came closest to King’s theory of resurrection, condensed as it was to two dancers, whose flexibility and fluid grace border on the preternatural. The Magnificent Maffre, born in France and for many years principal dancer at SF Ballet, was recently named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.

King was also awarded recently with a Creativity Award from the legendary home of American dance, Jacob’s Pillow, and the Second Annual Mayor’s Art Award from San Francisco.

Excellent calls from both governments.

—Jaime Robles

Originally published in the Piedmont Post