Sensual contemporary ballet by way of San Francisco
For 30 years, Alonzo King has worked in San Francisco, building a troupe of contemporary ballet dancers. He’s attracted international attention. His choreography literally emphasizes lines, arranging the performers in ranks and files, sending them forth in endless processions across the stage. The men bare their chests, the women their legs.
King and his collaborators scavenge the globe for interesting music; this season’s bill includes “Resin,” to a collage of Sephardic music both secular and religious. A newcomer to the troupe, Australian Paul Knobloch, emerges from a fall of illuminated silk, which then rises into the air and dangles, just within view.
Knobloch, a strong technical dancer, seems to have arrived from another planet; his style doesn’t blend with the others. But questions of style are almost beside the point; what King’s ensemble shows us is less a uniform style than a series of affectations, both in soft shoes and on pointe.
For “Scheherazade,” a 3-year-old ballet that premiered in Monte Carlo, composer Zakir Hussain manipulates the original Rimsky-Korsakov score, submerging its familiar melodies in waves of percussion and stringed instruments. King’s choreography recalls the 1910 Fokine work made for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, but gets wilder; Knobloch catapults through the air into the arms of four fellow dancers, and the erotic dance between the slave Scheherazade (Kara Wilkes) and the slumming Shahryar (David Harvey) begins in literal bondage and ends in a nurturing embrace.
This work, at least, responds to the music and seems less fragmented than “Resin,” though an octet of blobby lamps descending from above and melting into the floor are merely distractions. The audience cheers.