Martial arts and dance meld into one

Lines Ballet director Alonzo King explains how his troupe came to collaborate with the Shaolin monks on “Long River High,” a production that returns for a second year beginning Wednesday.

He says: “An acquaintance brought the monks by our studio, we traded some movements and that was it, I canceled the project I had planned and said, I want to work on this. The bottom line is that they are beautiful movers.”

“Both ballet and Chinese martial arts are classical forms, in which the shape of bodies in motion can be meaningful, even spiritual,” adds King. “Shaolin is not about the superficial movie versions of kung fu and ballet is not what someone is physically able to do to wow an audience.”

Both disciplines, he says, “are really about internal work and internal strength — the whole point of the monks learning the yoga-derived exercises that became the foundation of Shaolin in the fifth century BCE was to strengthen their ability to meditate and hold the meditation poses.”

A meditative martial arts discipline seems a natural match for a choreographer who has been a member of the raja yoga Self Realization Fellowship for more than three decades, and who has been known to instruct his dancers, “I want to see you become the arabesque instead of doing it.”

The Shaolin monks’ emphasis on simple, thoughtful living, rather than prohibitions or hierarchies, meshes well with King’s holistic world view. “I didn’t know about their no-hierarachies idea,” he recalls, “but the moment I saw them move, I knew it then.”

Egalitarianism has been a constant in King’s life, as he grew up in a family of prominent civil rights activists. “I was seeing people who were really standing in the middle of their truth,” he says. “They were living what they preached, pursuing an idea they would give their lives for.”

His consequent to authenticity, to “what is real, what is connected” as expressed in his art has earned him numerous major dance awards and fellowships.

He also credits his early exposure to many different cultures as influences for Lines’ many pioneering musical collaborations with artists including Rita Sahai, Bernice Johnson Reagon and Hamza El Din. Live music for “Long River High” will be provided by local Chinese music ensemble Melody of China.

“I never think about what people should take away from a performance,” King says, “but just like being in nature or meeting people for the first time, I hope for receptivity. If you allow yourself to feel, not getting all cerebral right away, allow yourself to tap into your own creativity in the seat, something will happen.”

IF YOU GO

Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet

Where: Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard St., San Francisco

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday; 8 p.m. Thursday-Friday; 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday; 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15 to $65

Contact: (415) 978-2787 or www.linesballet.org

artsDanceentertainment

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

A server greets diners in a Shared Spaces outdoor dining area outside Napper Tandy’s Irish pub at 24th Street and South Van Ness Avenue in the Mission District on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020. San Francisco could choose to resume outdoor dining in the wake of a state decision to lift a regional stay-at-home order. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Regional coronavirus stay-at-home orders lifted as ICU capacity improves

Change in rules could allow outdoor dining to resume in San Francisco

A statue of Florence Nightingale outside the Laguna Honda Hospital is one of only two statues of women in The City. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
S.F. still falling short of goal to represent women in public art

City has few streets or public facilities not named after men

Methamphetamines (Sophia Valdes/SF Weekly)
New search launched for meth sobering center site

Pandemic put project on pause but gave health officials time to plan a better facility

Hasti Jafari Jozani quarantines at her brother's San Francisco home after obtaining several clearances to study at San Francisco State University. (Photo courtesy Siavash Jafari Jozani)
Sanctions, visas, and the pandemic: One Iranian student’s bumpy path to SF State

Changing immigration rules and travel restrictions leave some overseas students in limbo

Woody LaBounty, left, and David Gallagher started the Western Neighborhoods Project which has a Balboa Street office housing historical items and comprehensive website dedicated to the history of The City’s West side. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)
Outside Lands podcast delves into West side’s quirky past

History buffs Woody LaBounty and David Gallagher have been sharing fun stories about the Richmond and Sunset since 1998

Most Read