I spend a lot of time lately with moths and butterflies. They live in a Bourbon box and eat the watercolour pencils and paper flowers that I feed them. They are a scattered bunch, my new friends, and they certainly influenced my experience at Lines Ballet last Friday.
The Lines dancers do not go to the floor (period) and under the stark stage lights, in pale gold and straw colored costumes, they reminded me of my moths. Their fast fluttering movements (port de bras and extensions derived from classical ballet but then slightly exaggerated) were perfectly and convincingly executed, but after a while, the choreography wanted for structure. Comprised of nineteen sections, Long River High Sky (Alonzo King's collaboration with the Shaolin monks) presented an ordered disorder reminiscent of moths in the lamplight. First two, then one, then a whole flurry of passionate fighters. Partnerships heatedly made, then broken up or nonchalantly abandoned. As when watching moths, one could construe endless stories about the transcendent dancers, but it's too easy, after further watching, to give up and just walk away without care. King's strengths lie in punctuation (cartwheeling, backflipping children in counterpoint against the sinewy, oh-how-I-envy-their-spines Lines dancers) and dynamic range (a "break-it-down" section by the full company followed by one monk's meditative seated pose) but in Long River High Sky those captivating moments do not coess into an--aha!--big picture. This aesthetic usually works for me, and it has certainly worked for King in the past, but this time I felt that they--winged creatures, tumbling monks, gifted dancers--were trying so hard to convey une grande impression. And I just couldn't see it.
The moths elicit strong feelings. You get caught up in their dervishes, in how they drive their fast cars, in their racing and graceful dancing, and maybe you pray over the ones who extinguish or cheer the ones who fly away. But [shrugging] then you go about your own business. They are, after all, just moths. What they do is instinctual, not choreographed. I'm ok feeling this way for my Bourbon box dwellers, but I'm not sure if I'm ok feeling it about Alonzo King's company this spring. Hmm.
read Ms. Howard's dance review here...