Lines Ballet’s Got Sand

L TO R): Dancers Yujin Kim, Adji Cissoko, Jeffrey Van Sciver, Michael Montgomery perform in SAND, a world premiere collaboration between Alonzo King, Jason Moran, Charles Lloyd Photographer: Chris Hardy

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It’s pretty hard to beat Lines Ballet, and anyway they’re more about love — of the collaborative creative process and of the integrity of an individual dancer’s expression —  than about hitting some preset mark of excellence. Alonzo King’s group is rightly loved for sharing their technical skill and particular grace with us, and both of these qualities were in full force at the opening of their spring season at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts last Thursday. Premiering their latest work, Sand, a collaboration with jazz pianist Jason Moran, the company hit marks of their own making. Accompanied by Moran and the legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd, the dancers moved across an elegant set designed by Robert Rosenwasser, a field of lines that looked slightly silkier than piano strings and slightly heavier than light. When the full company was on stage the collective effect was a similar projection of presence and evanescence, of meeting the music in moments one to one but somehow never being quite that literal. I was struck in this performance by the expressivity of Jeffrey Van Sciver’s hands and the distinctive quality of light pomp he brings to the stage, as if he were tapping a fountain of chi. Organic energy informed by and delivered with balletic rigor might be the company calling card. The program notes for a Lines Ballet show often tend toward the philosophical, and this time they included a meditation on the nature of sand, noting several appropriate analogies to people working together and as individuals. One grain can cut into an eye, a pile is as fluid as water. A definition of sand that escaped the list, but seems relevant, struck me as I left YBCA. I recall it as used by my Irish forbears to mean a willingness to hold your weight against what might wear it away. Lines Ballet’s got sand, and this latest collaboration manages to bring the music and movement together as a cohesive whole while highlighting each art’s distinctive power. Oh, and the first half of the program, 2014’s Shostakovich, performed to string quartets by, well, Shostakovich, is also potent stuff.


Do yourself a solid and check out Sand at YBCA through April 30.

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