After seeing a preview of Alonzo King's collaboration with Zakir Hussain for Lines Ballet's 25th anniversary opening program at OCPAC a month or so ago, I was very excited to see the actual performance tonight (Sunday, November 4) at Yerba Buena. The program had two world premieres: Irregular Pearl set to live Baroque music and improvisation by members of the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and Rasa, set to music by Hussain and Kala Ramnath.
Irregular Pearl was the first half of the evening, and was a bit too long and homogeneous in its movement. The dancers are beautiful, and move with a sinuous adagio quality at all speeds, but after a while everything kind of looks the same. I almost fell asleep, too.
Rasa was a different story altogether. Two things stood out: the amazing central pas de deux, which I think I could stand to watch at least 3 or 4 more times, and the movement quality and speed of the dancers in the latter half of the piece. The pas, danced by Laurel Keen and Brett Conway, was like an embodiment of yin and yang, rejection and desire, independence, interdependence, and co-dependence. Alternately pulling at each other, pushing each other away, dragging, rolling, and in general struggling across the floor, the pas makes its shapes with regular, ugly movements combined so seamlessly with classical ballet poses that you can't tell where one begins and the other begins. Often, choreography that tries to fuse prosaic movement with classical ballet looks contrived, like the choreographer had an internal checklist and schedule, with the switches looking like they were forced because he had to put something different in now.
Not so with Rasa. Even in the most turbulent, struggle-ridden moments, the ballet steps would suddenly appear as if they were the most natural transition to the set of steps. Conversely, unlike contact improv, the struggle in this piece doesn't look like two people trying to move a sofa up some steep stairs. This is struggle elevated and glorified, made beautiful and put on a pedestal, yet projecting all the difficulty. This is how everyday movement should be made into dance.
For me, this pas de deux alone is worth the price of admission, and is the most remarkable thing I have seen in a very long time. However, what pushes Rasa over the top is a series of solos for the dancers after the pas that has the ballet dancers moving like no other ballet dancers I've seen. Using ferocious speed, commitment, and a sharpness of attack more commonly found in krumping --- I keep thinking of the beginning of the documentary Rize which disclaims that none of its footage was sped up --- the dancers showed an amazing abandon in musically and choreographically complex movement.
Rasa is amazing stuff --- go see it!