Alonzo King Wants to Wake Up the World With Ballet

The choreographer Alonzo King sees ballet differently. A dance is never just a dance. It’s a kind of faith, and the training necessary for it — day in and day out — is a way to keep that faith alive. His ballets have a way of sailing through sensations, of calming the nervous system, of realigning the body and mind.

“Deep River,” which will have its New York premiere at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theater beginning Feb. 22, is named after the spiritual, which is part of its score, and is rooted in ideas about courage and hope. It’s about a belief that King has: Within every person, a river flows.

“You can’t live a full life without having gotten in contact with the river that is inside of you,” he said in a video interview from San Francisco, where he lives and where his company, Lines Ballet, is based. “And it’s a knowing, it’s a knowledge. It’s your internal world. You want to tap into the knowledge that is waiting inside of you.”

That can seem like a lot to put into a dance. But “Deep River” is driven by more than choreographic invention. When he was speaking to the composer Jason Moran about the score for “Deep River,” King told him that it needed to be deeply soulful and heartbreaking. “I want it to get past intellect and touch people’s hearts,” King said. “To wake them up.”

King told the composer Jason Moran that he wanted something soulful for the score. “I want it to get past intellect and touch people’s hearts,” King said. “To wake them up.”Credit…Aubrey Trinnaman for The New York Times

King sees behavior as movement, or a dance: “It begins in thought,” he said. “Thought leads to behavior and behavior is movement. How do you move in the world? How do you see and treat other people? That’s it. And so if we look at the lives of great folks that we admire, those are dances. You look at the life of Harriet Tubman. That’s an incredible dance.”

Back to top button