Dduring the endless screen lock time of 2020, a series of dance films pierces the digital noise. Not standing still, American choreographer’s films Alonso King, found dancers embedded in their environment, dancing in forests and gardens, on mountains and beaches, against the backdrop of urban concrete in the San Francisco sun. Their movements were exciting, with exquisite technical ability and a rich soul.
For King, it was a return to the origins. “Nature is everything,” he says. “Here is the first pirouette: in whirlpools and whirlpools and the Earth on its axis around the sun. Rise and fall, mechanics and physics, it’s all in the ballet. People think that the ballet started with Ekaterina Medici – no, it’s much deeper.
The king has a reputation as a sage. His deep, warm voice and unhurried delivery attract you, and the same qualities of integrity and seriousness in his dance. The multiple award winner has created work for his company, Ballet lines, since 1982, as well as choreography for the American Ballet Theater, Ballett Frankfurt, Les Ballets de Monte Carlo, Royal Swedish Ballet and others. But you can list how many times his works have been staged in the UK.
One young dancer was deeply moved by the teachings of the King Buffer Benoit Swan, now Rambert’s artistic director. In 2000, Puffer starred in the original cast of King’s Follow the Subtle Current Upstream, and has now brought King to London to direct the work with Rambert.
In a studio on the south bank of the Thames, dancers take off their layers, ready to run up its steps. Through the speakers sounds the music of the virtuoso of the board Zakir Hussein, and on the floor a clear geometry gives way to scrolls and movements thick and smooth as a toffee. The company is a dance with self-control. This is abstract, but not pointless. “What people call abstract is based on some idea that’s so big that you have to put it into symbols, like in algebra,” King says. “These works are really mental structures. These are treatises. “
King’s choreography is rooted in ballet, but draws on many other ways to move and look at the world. He attended New York’s leading ballet schools, but his first teacher was his mother. “She was an amateur and she moved beautifully. I would just look at her and be delighted … She liked being “in” the music, not “on it”. Looking at her and dancing with her “obscured the outside world,” he says.
His father, Slater King, was president of the Albany Movement, a coalition for civil rights in Georgia. Martin Luther King (no relatives) and Malcolm X were visitors to the house. “Because my father was a successful businessman, he helped many organizations and taught many people at school. He practiced what he believed in. There was no division between what he said and how he lived. It’s inspiring and scary. “
“As a child, when you have such strength and energy, wow, it’s deep,” he says. But it was not only politicians who passed through his house. “There were also musicians, singers, dancers from different cultures,” says King. “I remember some Ethiopian women teaching me to dance, carving sculptors and musicians playing their instruments.”
For comparison, the school seemed boring, but several dance and theater teachers brought their subjects to life. “It was not necessary to be idle and dream. You actually lived, not disappeared [into your head] to feel something. “
Politics stayed with him and his family – a cousin Baroness Una King. Although King does not dance with open messages, he would definitely say that his work is political. It’s about how you conduct yourself in life, how you treat other people. “The main thing is character,” he says, referring to the fact that when you see good faith and love, humility and sincerity on stage, “it blows you up more than any skill.”
“The first thing in someone’s movement: is it true?” Says the King. “Does that mean he’s not only technically accurate, but also where does he come from and what does he say?” He compares this to the falsification of a smile: moving muscles without inhabiting true feeling. “Often when people talk about peace, they shout and shout,” he says. “How can we talk about peace when there is no inner peace? We have a lot of war inside us, so we invest it in the outside world … If you want to change the world, change yourself. ”
King sounds more like a spiritual leader than a dancer. “The antidote to hatred is love,” he says, and you nod your head and silently promise to be the best person. “People think of love as a feeling, but it’s strength and power.” He talks about the solo, one dancer supported by three others, “going through the hardships of obstacles and fire that we all have to face, and whether we know it or not, there are invisible forces that support us.”
King’s Dances aims to show people who are transformed, connected and embody the highest ideal of how to be. “It’s a life of service,” he says of the dancer’s vocation, and it doesn’t sound sublime or genuine, it’s just true. “When you go to someone on stage, you want them to inspire you to a richer, fuller, more dedicated life,” he says. “Dance in its ultimate sense shows you how you can live.”