Dance Preview: SUTRA (Alonzo King LINES Ballet at the Wallis in Beverly Hills)

by Eve Meadows on October 19, 2018

in Dance,Theater-Los Angeles


Widely considered a chief architect of the contemporary world music movement, Indian tabla master Zakir Hussain is drenched in Eastern Classicism, yet looks to Western influences to explore and experiment. Meanwhile, choreographer Alonzo King combines principles of transcendental Eastern thinking with the foundation of Western ballet’s classical forms and techniques.

Over the past two decades, King and Hussain have worked together on multiple artistic collaborations to push the boundaries of creative expression, despite the demands and structure of their respective disciplines.

Their partnership reaches a zenith in a special Southern California premiere. Sutra, developed for Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s 35th Anniversary season, is coming to The Wallis in Beverly Hills for three performances only, Nov 1-3, 2018, at 7:30. The project’s original composition was recorded by Zakir Hussain and Sabir Khan.

The intention of King and Hussain’s newest work is to marry dance with vibration in a transformational sense. While music is the vibration of sound, dance is the vibration of form. And both are vehicles for thought; dance is thought made visible and music is thought made audible, which lends to their transformative power.

King’s goal is not to abandon the classical ideal, but to broaden its potentiality for endless possibilities by seeing ballet as a science — founded on universal, geometric principles of energy and evolution — not a style. Similarly, Hussain has focused on bringing new life to classical tabla music, which began as dancing music in Northern Indian courts in the 1700s.

The very heart of Indian music is the raga: the fixed melodic form upon which the musician improvises. Like the classical language of movement upon which King is ever-expanding, the raga provides a framework for endless rhythmic variation and improvisation by Hussain. Sutra — meaning “string” or “thread” — corresponds with the Sanskrit words suci, meaning “needle,” and suna, meaning “woven.” Below are excerpts from their collaboration.

Following its world premiere last April in the company’s home base of San Francisco, the full-length 70-minute work was performed at The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. Here are excerpts of a few reviews:

San Francisco Chronicle: “Live dance and music don’t get better than Alonzo King’s world premiere collaboration with tabla master Zakir Hussain… Hussain, who has contributed music to five previous King ballets, here with Khan offers a commissioned score as surprising as it is alluring, rich not just in tabla drumming and taal vocalizations, but unusual rubbing sounds, with Khan producing effects on his stringed instrument that sound almost like human cries.”

7×7: “We are treated to a performance that seems to transcend ballet, and instead becomes more like a fever dream of seamless traditions, music, costuming, and stunning dancing. A dream wired to make us feel the freedom of shedding our material world, both literally and metaphorically.”

The Boston Globe: “A spectacular burst of musical and choreographic creativity, not to mention some of the most virtuosic dancing to hit Boston in some time… The ballet foundation of King’s work has always been richly expanded by his contemporary sensibility, and tabla virtuoso Hussain is one of the undisputed masters of contemporary world music. Together, their aesthetics interweave with compelling organic integrity.”

Fjord Review: “Sutra highlights one of the finest most recent collaborations of Eastern music with Western dance, showcasing the innovative melodies of composer Zakir Hussain and contemporary ballet choreographer Alonzo King… King’s choreography is brilliantly suited for Hussain’s music composition, and vice versa. LINES is aptly named: These dancers have limbs that stretch and contort in an almost physically-defying manner, while King’s phrase work proffers movement that is at once linear, sharp, and powerful, as it is supple, curved, and empathetic. This dichotomy is felt also in Hussain’s music, beautifully punctuating the dancers’ bolder movements, while resonating softly in moments of calm.”

LINES Ballet attracts a diverse audience in terms of age, class, and ethnicity, and is consistently working to expose a wider range of people to the transformative power of dance through works that resonate beyond traditional ballet audiences.

photos by Chris Hardy

Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Bram Goldsmith Theater
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd.
Thursday, November 1, 2018 at 7:30
Friday, November 2, 2018 at 7:30
Saturday, November 3, 2018 at 7:30
for tickets ($35-$105), call 310.746.4000 or visit The Wallis

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