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Flash Review, 4-9: Ecstasy
Tracing LINES in San Francisco
By Jordan Winer
Copyright 2000 Jordan Winer
SAN FRANCISCO--Two women
take turns doing solos on a vast stage bathed in burnt sienna and
ochre light. One sits and watches the other with full, rapt attention.
As we in the audience watch the smile of the watcher, as well as
the serpentine prowling of the soloist, all to the haunting strains
of master oud player Hamza El Din, we are exactly where the title
of the dance would have us be: Ecstasy.
Ecstasy is one part of
one of the longer pieces, "Tarab," the only non-premiere in a mostly
satisfying program of Alonzo King's LINES Contemporary Ballet at
Yerba Buena in San Francisco which opened Friday. The crown jewel
of "Tarab" is the brilliant Wedding Dance. As El Din played and
sang, his sensual reedy voice filling the vast theatre as soothingly
as bathwater, pairs of women and pairs of men crossed back and forth
striking snaky, Egyptian poses that contorted through every joint
in their body. It was a pure and wonderful piece, the marriage couple
ending the dance in mock fatigue, jostling together in reckless
"In To Get Out," a premiere,
was the most haunting dance of the evening. Four buffed guys enter
the stage like a gang of hoods. One tall man repeatedly pushes a
shorter guy, menacingly, but done with the architectural precision
that King is so deft at. Then a sort of balletic "Fight Club" ensues.
The four men, naked except for tiny purple shorts, start wrestling
and fighting in a clump. As one man is pushed out, he struggles
to get back in. This breaks up into a series of virtuosic solos,
with lots of breaks where the men stalk each other, or care for
each other; it's hard to tell. One of the most striking images comes
when one tall dancer simply lays his hand on the shoulder of the
man standing in front of him, in stillness. Somei Satoh's mournful
music fits this piece like a glove, as does the wonderful lighting
by Axel Morgenthaler, who lit the piece as if through holes punched
in the theatre's ceiling.
Another premiere, "Tango,"
with music by the ubiquitous Astor Piazzolla (see
Flash Review 1, 4-3: Getting Piazzolla), is fun to watch but
not as resonant as the rest of the program. The highlight occurs
when three men dance with one woman, the men dancing with her like
a six-armed Don Juan, or like one man reflected three times in a
fun house mirror. For me, this piece got a little too ice-dance-ish
in the end with lots of busy crosses and repetitive flourishes,
fed perhaps by the catchy but melodramatic music.
"Sea Green and Blue Already
Rising," another of the night's new pieces, seemed preoccupied by
our word-saturated culture. A creation of The Foundry, in collaboration
with King's dancers, this piece is dominated by flailing and pictures
of dancers in solitude, alienated. A voice-over comments ponderously,
"Is my song rich enough to hold you?" and later "Do you love God?"
This piece has promise but did not quite gel together all its elements
The dancers of this company
are amazing. Their brand of Ballet doesn't just "use" elements of
African and other styles, it creates moments of pure joy on stage
that absolutely captivate. With dancers like this, who needs words?
LINES plays at Yerba
Buena Center for the Arts through April 16. For more information,
go to http://www.linesballet.org/performance.
(Editor's Note: Jordan
Winer teaches English and Poetry at Berkeley High School. He also
works as a theatre director. His last production was "The Miser"
for Theatre in the Open in Newburyport, Mass. As a dancer he has
worked in Summer Ulrickson's company Torque, with which he performed
in the show, "Re-Play." We are quite pleased to welcome Jordan to
the Flash ranks!)
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