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DANCE REVIEWS : Contrasting Impressions From LINES

March 21, 1994|CHRIS PASLES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

IRVINE — Asked to describe what his ballets looked like, choreographer Alonzo King declined. "For me, that's appearance stuff," he told a Times writer recently. "My obsession is getting behind appearances to the essence of something."

Unfortunately, appearances are what are first encountered in dance, and first encounters of two works danced by King's San Francisco-based LINES Contemporary Ballet troupe Saturday at the Irvine Barclay Theatre gave widely contrasting impressions.

"Bach Cello Suite" showed the choreographer's sensitive musicality and his company to be warm, gracious communicators as well as strong technicians. "Compelling Geological Evidence," reviewed in these pages after it was performed in San Diego in 1992, however, seemed diffuse and over-freighted with intellectual pretensions.

Balanchine said that mothers-in-law can't be shown in ballet because that kind of relationship cannot be demonstrated strictly through movement. How much more difficult it is to show in movement "the boundary lines vanishing . . . between the realms of the living and the non-living," which is a quote by scientist Jagadis Chandra Bose that King appended to the program note for "Geological Evidence."

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What we saw in the hourlong work was a gradual transition from simpler to complex structures, from few dancers to many, and the eventual appearance of Katherine Warner, presumably as Bose, equipped with spelunker gear, measuring a few dancers, capturing one of them, crawling on all fours, seeming to descend in space.

In some striking images, she also tried to climb a ladder only to be pushed back again and again, whereas another dancer reached the top and still another struggled through the rungs.

But meanings were often far from clear. Without Bose's quote as guidance, who would have guessed that "points of contact" were emerging between "the living and the non-living"?

No such intellectual weight burdened the Bach Suite, set to seven movements drawn from three of Bach's Suites for Solo Cello.

King responded to the phrasing and accent of the music and even to the texture of the bowing by the unidentified cellist (on recording), extending ballet technique with infusions of modern dance and gymnastics, sometimes extraneously so but mostly with impact.

The company in general looked terrific here, with especially notable contributions by a heroic Christopher Boatwright, an intense Yannis Adoniou, a poised Valerie Madonia and Carmen Rozestraten and Gregory Dawson in fluidly executing a duet of tensile strength and sinuous line.

The program was part of the Feet First Contemporary Dance Series sponsored by the Irvine theater and UCI Cultural Events.

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