Alonzo King LINES Ballet, Lisa Fischer combine forces

Singer Lisa Fischer, featured in “Twenty Feet from Stardom,” appears in an Alonzo King LINES Ballet world premiere at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. (Courtesy Djeneba Aduayom)

The thing vocalist Lisa Fischer is enjoying most about her upcoming world-premiere collaboration with San Francisco-based choreographer Alonzo King is the freedom permeating the project.

“What’s been so great about this whole experience is that there were no rules other than creating sound and moves. That was so freeing for me. It was like sticking my fingers in this really cool batch of paint,” says the versatile Rolling Stones’ backup singer, who was prominently featured in the 2013 Oscar-winning documentary “Twenty Feet from Stardom.”

The piece, which didn’t have a name when Fischer spoke on the phone with the San Francisco Examiner (“I don’t know if it even needs to be named,” she says, in a honey-tinged tone as seductive as her singing voice) is on the program of Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet fall season, which opens Nov. 6 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Working closely with bassist and musical director JC Maillard (“I love how open he is”), Fischer calls the guitar-and-cello-heavy score moody, coming “from the gut,” with some actual songs.

Fischer says her partnership with King (whose diverse collaborators have included Danny Glover, Pharoah Sanders and Zakir Hussain) and LINES Ballet came about after she saw the contemporary troupe at the Joyce Theater in New York.

“I just fell in love with his spirit and the dancers,” says Fischer, who took ballet classes as a child.

She laughs at the suggestion that she would dance in the LINES performance: “It would be foolish of me to even try to think of moving like the dancers; folks would be throwing eggs and rocks.”

She remains in awe of them: “They sing together, while still being individuals. It’s sort of like having this emotional outpouring of information without having to explain it.”

In addition to creating new work, Fischer (a Grammy winner for the 1991 R&B song “How Can I Ease the Pain” who also has sung with Sting, Luther Vandross, Chaka Khan and Nine Inch Nails) is beginning a new chapter of her career, following the unexpected success of “Twenty Feet from Stardom.” (“I thought my family might see the DVD some day,” she says, laughing).

In 2016, she’s got a series of dates at New York’s Blue Note and a tour with stops in Las Vegas and California.

For the time being, she has put aside her list of ought-to-dos, and the “background singer mentality” that has her at a session after a single phone call.

Today, she says, she is allowing herself the opportunity to dream: “I try to let life show me the way.”


Alonzo King LINES Ballet
Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., S.F.
When: Opens Nov. 6; 8 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays, 5 p.m. Sundays, plus 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11-12; closes Nov. 15
Tickets: $30 to $65
Contact: (415) 978-2787,
Note: A reception at the Regis Hotel follows the Nov. 6 show; tickets are $100.

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