Ballet gracefully fuses traditional, innovative forms

An opera singer stepped on stage in the Joyce Theater. Balls of light are scattered throughout. A single dancer enters, moving organically, yet precisely, grasping the small ball of green light and incorporating it effortlessly into the choreography.

On March 22, FlyPeople reunited from near and far in New York City to see the Lines Ballet’s performance of “Constellations.” Alonzo King’s artistic vision has guided this contemporary ballet company since 1982. I went to this performance because I love seeing talented professionals, in a field related to what I want to do professionally, doing their jobs. I personally want to go into the musical theatre business, which does have quite a bit of dance involved.

The constellations Alonzo King refers to in the title of his show, I believe, alludes to the spheres of light that Alonzo King put on the stage for the dancers in the company to interact with, sometimes appearing as a net of different colors while other times the dancers rolled them to each other during their piece. In one of the most moving solo performances of the show, three dancers held plates of LCD lights, the only source of illumination on the stage. They followed her as she made her way into the wings, moving as though she was weighed down. She maintained contact with the floor, creating shapes and lines that embodied both beauty and sadness.

In addition to King’s manipulation of light throughout the ballet, contact between the dancers was a theme that manifested itself throughout. Oftentimes, the physical interactions between these dancers felt improvised—they were raw, honest and intimate. And surely there was nothing typical about the lifts and partnering. Though partnering in dance often adheres to traditional gender roles, that is, with male dancers doing the lifting and female dancers being lifted, the duets of “Constellations” included moments that completely reversed and subverted this dynamic. Female dancers often physically supported their male partners, and many of the major duets that happened were between two men.

These tender moments were interspersed among others of more frantic movement accompanied by not the romantic vibrato of an opera singer but by the natural sounds of tinkling bells or a whipping wind.

Though these moments were aesthetically pleasing by themselves, they received little help in the way of costuming. Frankly, all of the men were nearly naked and all of the women were wearing leotards so tight that they practically appeared to be naked. There were times when odd poofy pants were added onto a costume, but for the majority of the performance, the dancers were as close to nude as possible—which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a dance performance. It is amazing to see exactly how a dancer’s body moves and sometimes clothing can obscure the intricacies of the movement. There are minute details such as whether or not the dancer’s leg is entirely straight or is it in plié, that you would not be able to see if the dancers were wearing pants.

FlyPeople left the theater newly inspired by the talented Lines company dancers. Hannah Cushing ’14, the fearless leader of FlyPeople said, “I cried during that performance,” after the show ended. Outside the theater, Niya Nicholson ’14, another FlyPerson saw one of the dancers and said, “Yes! You did it! YES!” “Constellations” was truly an artistic feat that had us all just as excited.

This ballet was also remarkable because the dances were not all to classical piano pieces, but instead, the dancers were accompanied by piano, a classical singer, or digital recorded music. Because it was a contemporary ballet, it had the freedom to explore these different elements in terms of both music and movement, making it a performance that was constant balance between the traditional and the modern.

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