Resonance: Dance and Music and the World

Dancers: Laura O'Malley and Babatunji Photo:Gayle Laird, © Exploratorium,

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Resonance: Lines Ballet and Bernie Krause

The Exploratorium, San Francisco

This article first appeared in the Piedmont Post March 25, 2015

The Exploratorium in San Francisco is not just a fun place for the kids. Evening programs include the Resonance series, which features performance excerpts and conversations among artists experimenting with a thrilling range of possibilities in their chosen media. Last Thursday I had the good fortune to see Lines Ballet company members preview their work-in-progress with sound artist Bernie Krause, and to hear a conversation among Krause, Lines Ballet founder Alonzo King, and host Wayne Grim. After a brief introduction from Grim, King asked the nine dancers in his company to take turns sharing some movement phrases with the audience in the Exploratorium’s Kanbar Theater. The stage in the Kanbar is small, which no doubt presented a challenge for the dancers, but the intimate setting was a great way for the audience to experience the virtuosity and integrity of the movement of one or two dancers at a time. As his company performed to Krause’s rainforest field recordings, King talked about the marriage of logic and emotion that is the foundational pas de deux of all great dance. King, who is celebrated for his capacity to bring forth his dancers’ unique creative capacities as well as their technical skill, is known for his collaborations with a wide range of performers, including Baka artists from the Central African Republic and China’s Shaolin Monks. Using Krause’s recordings and the arrangements of composer Richard Blackford, Lines Ballet company members have built movement from the mind-blowing range of sounds made by non-human animals in their environment, a natural symphony Krause has termed the biophony. Krause, who is the author of The Great Animal Orchestra, has been doing field recordings for forty years, and has an impressive record of contributions to film and performance of all stripes, as well as to the field of soundscape ecology. Talking with Grim after the all-too-brief performance, Krause and King revealed their shared reverence for nature and an understanding of art as intelligence and receptivity. Krause talked about the way that recording in the field centered and opened his mind. He said that he made a conscious effort to give up music in order to focus on field recording, but that by doing so he found a new music. According to Krause, there are 10,000 known species of songbirds, but only about 100 of them are used as sources for human-produced music because their songs fit a familiar signature. King talked about the limitations of vigor and technique, and the importance of a dancer cultivating artistry as well as skill, from the very beginning of their training. Both of these artists recognize nature as the source of all making. King reminded us all that all mechanics come from nature—what’s a pirouette, after all, but a whirlpool, or an eddy. What a joy it was to hear from these great artists that if we learn to listen we can find and participate in the organic intelligence that surrounds us and that we are.


For information about the premiere of the full piece, go to For the Exploratorium’s resonance series, go here: