Alonzo King Lines Ballet returns to Jacob's Pillow

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BECKET >> Alonzo King LINES Ballet is back at Jacob's Pillow, with its director's unchanged message that everything we see is linear — whether you want to argue that with him or not. Indisputable is that his 11 dancers of varied ethnicity are strong, athletic and committed to his angular choreography.

Though not related to the Rev. Martin Luther King, Alonzo King was also born in Georgia and comes from a family active in civil rights. The 62-year-old former dancer collaborates in lighting and costume design with co-founder Robert Rosenwasser, and Axel Morganthaler. They worked with him on the three ballets being presented in the Ted Shawn Theater through Sunday.

The San Francisco-based company tours widely in the United States, Mexico, Africa and Europe, and King reaches just as widely for musical inspiration. This week's dances are Bach's "Concerto for Two Violins," "Violin Concerto" by the jazz-folk musician Edgar Meyer as a men's quintet, and "Biophony," to what was called a "soundscape" — of divergent animal noises and what seemed like effects from the Weather Channel.

Bach's forceful style in the three-movement concerto inspired firmly delineated motions, incorporating birdlike gestures that recall ballet's iconic Swan Queen. In the first and last movements most company members were in black bathing suits, though a particularly assertive role was danced by Michael Montgomery in light-colored shorts (not to be called white underpants). Dancers wore ballet slippers and none had toe shoes at any time. A short excerpt is on You Tube.

The gentler middle movement had two men and two women, in gray and white variants including knee-length tights. On Wednesday the four were Robb Beresford, Michael Montgomery, Kara Wilkes and Laura O'Malley. They held each other in various pairings and struggled forward, not particularly caring who was with who, and bending in fluid, showy contortions including stretches that admiring insiders call six o'clock arabesques.

In the last movement the bare stage was less brightly lighted. Prominent lighting panels in the wings stayed there for the evening, apparently controlling the sound as well.

The 2008 Men's Quintet is set to a slow, intense violin movement in high range by Edgar Meyer with jazz musician Pharoah Sanders, from "The Radius of Convergence," a full-length dance. Five shirtless sweating men in gray slacks did muscular twirling and jumping, their arms displaying what looked like extra parts. A couple of men could sink smoothly backward till they touched the floor, while another gave the impression that the air around him was weighty, and strength was needed to force it away.

This year's "Biophony," in its East Coast premiere, is eight original movements. It sounds simplistic to say it's about nature and animals, but some movement titles are: "Winds Across the Tundra," "Still Life at the Equator, "The Frog Who Desired Moonlight" and "The Gift of Bees."

Krause's apparent premise is that we come from animals and refine their behavior to our high culture. Both balletic and modern, the strenuous dance and its score (coming from "The Great Animal Orchestra Ballet") evoke watering holes, ocean waves, Yukon bird life, rain forests, and African bees. Angled limbs and bird calls suggest chicken-necked birds, dogs dragging itchy bottoms, or buggy bugs. And at one time or another, anyone or everyone could be wearing a filmy pink skirt.

DANCE REVIEW

What: Alonzo King Lines Ballet

Who: Jacob's Pillow

When: 8 p.m. Fri.; 2 and 8 p.m. Sat.; 2 p.m. Sun.

Where: Ted Shawn Theatre, 358 George Carter Road, Becket

Tickets: $75-$39

How: (413) 243-0745; jacobspillow.org


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