Alonzo King was born in 1952 to Valencia King Nelson and Slater King. The family lived first in Georgia, and then moved to Santa Barbara. According to BlackPast.org, his father and uncles were active in the advancement of African American civil rights. His mother created AfriGeneas to track African American genealogy and ancestry. His upbringing would have been immersed in the importance of his cultural roots as well as an eye toward the future. Rather than these elements of past and future working at odds, they complemented and strengthened one another. Perhaps this prepared him even at an early age for his future career of what the Jacob’s Pillow Creativity Award called “moving ballet in a very 21st-century direction.”
Alonzo King has taken the venerable dance tradition of ballet and infused it with “new expressive potential,” as stated by Linesballet.org. To achieve this, King collaborates with artists of various disciplines and cultures and uses structured improvisation. He calls his pieces “thought structures.” Notable works in collaboration with non-western movement traditions include People of the Forest (2001), which was choreographed alongside Baka artists from Central African Republic, and Long River High Sky (2007), which collaborated with Shaolin Monks. He views ballet not as a series of steps with a static aesthetic, but as a system of understanding and organizing space, movement, time, and the body. Linesballet.org calls it “universal, geometric principles of energy and evolution.”
In 1982, King founded the Alonzo King Lines Ballet, a touring company based in San Francisco. Dedicated to realizing King’s vision for an ever-evolving ballet, the company’s artistic vision includes the stated goal “exploring the possibilities of movement from a global perspective, and to renewing – and transcending –traditional ballet.” King’s choreography requires athleticism, flexibility, musicality, intelligence, and training, but in an interview with the Chicago Tribune, he notes that above all, his dancers must possess fearlessness. He continually asks them to reach outside their comfort zones, to commit body and soul to the process, and to be engrossed with their art.
Alonzo King’s work appears in the repertoire of many companies including Swedish Royal Ballet, Frankfurt Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, Joffrey Ballet, Alvin Ailey, Hong Kong Ballet, North, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. He has also worked in opera, television, and film. He has been honored with honorary Doctorates from Dominican University of California and California Institute of the Arts, numerous Isadora Duncan awards, the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Corps de Ballet International Teacher Conference, the Jacob’s Pillow Creativity Award, the US Artists award, and New York’s Bessie Award for Choreographer/Creator, among others. He was called a “San Francisco treasure” by both the San Francisco Museum & Historical Society and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom when he presented King with the Mayor’s Art Award. His company has appeared at the Venice Biennale, Monaco Dance Forum, Maison de la Dance, the Edinburgh International Festival, Montpellier Danse, the Wolfsburg Festival, the Holland Dance Festival, and Théâtre National de Chaillot in Paris. King furthers the exploration of dance as an art form by engaging in numerous teaching endeavors including the Line Ballet Training Program, the Lines Ballet Summer Program, master teaching engagements, and the Alonzo King Lines Ballet BFA program at Dominican University of California. Through these, he and his faculty share his vision of an expressive, inclusive, 21st-century ballet with the next generation of dancers and dancemakers.
“About.” Alonzo King Lines Ballet. 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. <https://www.linesballet.org/company/>
“Alonzo King.” Alonzo King Lines Ballet. 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. <https://www.linesballet.org/company/>
“Artistic Vision.” Alonzo King Lines Ballet. 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. <https://www.linesballet.org/company/>
BlackPast.org. “King, Alonzo (c.1952- ).” BlackPast.org. 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. <http://www.blackpast.org/aah/ king-alonzo-c-1952>
“Family History.” Alonzo King Lines Ballet. 2015. Web. 20 September 2015. <https://www.linesballet.org/company/>
Molzahn, Laura. ”Job No. 1, you must be fearless: Alonzo King LINES Ballet.” Chicago Tribune. 18 March 2015. Linesballet.org. 20 September 2015. <https://www.linesballet.org/ media-ssl/uploads/news/Chicago_Tribune_3.2015_1.pdf>