Alonzo King’s artistic voice draws strength from its deep roots in his personal past in order to create a stable position in the present and push into the future. Some of the earliest and most profound influences on King’s vision come from his childhood. Aside from his father and uncles being active in the Civil Rights Movement and the NAACP, his mother, Valencia King Nelson, exposed young Alonzo to her artist friends from around the world, including Guyana, Japan, and Europe. Through this early-life exposure to the artistic endeavours and mentalities of other cultures, the future choreographer would have learned two important things: an appreciation for the validity and power of the arts of different cultures, and the ways in which traditional art forms can grow into contemporary forms of expression. Both of these elements form important components of his work today.
Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet has been in existence since 1982. That year saw the first International Day of Peace, the inauguration of both the Epcot theme park and the Vietnam War Memorial, and the awarding of the Time Magazine Man of the Year Award to none other than “the computer.” When people crawled out from under their protective nationalism following the fall of the Berlin wall, the political circumstances of the world did not get more orderly as time went on, but less. The heros and villains all became much greyer, especially when looking at such disputes as the Arab-Israili conflict and others like it where no one was in the right, but no solution can be reached because no one is entirely in the wrong. The world was entering a new phase of increasing connectivity and activity which has been compared to the magnitude of the Industrial Revolution. The internet started an upward trajectory that has not stopped since then. For the first time, the opinions, philosophies, sciences and arts of geographically distant lands were at people’s’ fingertips 24 hours a day. It has become increasingly difficult to isolate one’s self in one’s own culture and viewpoints. In today’s world, this has grown to the prevalence of social media, blogs, and internet-published articles which allow for a seemingly unending pool of the ideas of individual people. The concept of having a single right answer is almost obsolete. That said, the digital era is built on code and an underlying mathematical structure. For Alonzo King, this is where ballet enters into a contemporary dialogue.
For King, what makes ballet “ballet” has never lost its relevance. He sees it as based on the inherent geometry of the human body, of time, and of space. These same concepts that so fascinated Renaissance painters form the underlying structure of his contemporarily relevant works. In an article on the website of The New Republic, Jennifer Homans describes the consummately contemporary approach King takes to working with the arts of other cultures as “not by borrowing or fusing, which is the conventional use of such exotic origins, but by finding a path to these older traditions within ballet itself.” King connects his dancing with the dancing, music, and art of other cultures through the human element in all of them. He does not utilize the artistic traditions of others in order to showcase the exotic or to break out of his own movement patterns, but to offer up the intersections between people of different backgrounds. He proceeds firm in his convictions of what is true, while allowing for what others believe to be equally true. These are not mutually exclusive; one does not diminish the other. Rather, they combine to enrich each other and those who view them. While most of the dance world has pushed as far away from ballet as possible (or clung to it without fully understanding why, beyond tradition, it matters to them), Alonzo King looks to it as a foundation for expression, understanding that while these other great dance artists of the day may have the right answers, he does as well.
Homans, Jennifer. “The Universalist.” The New Republic. 23 August 2012. Web. 4 October 2015. <http://www.newrepublic.com/article/magazine/ 105707/homans-alonzo-king-ballet-mediterranean>
“Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet.” Jacob’s Pillow Dance. 2015. Web. 4 October 2015. <http://danceinteractive.jacobspillow.org/alonzo-kings-lines-ballet/migration/>
“Choreography.” Alonzo King LINES Ballet. 2015. Web. 4 October 2015. <https://www.linesballet.org/company/alonzo-king/choreography/>
Denning, Alli. “What Happened in 1982?” Like Totally 80’s. 27 August 2007. Web. 4 October 2015. <http://www.liketotally80s.com/2007/08/80s-capsules-1982/>