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Soak It All In: Transcend into a New World with LINES Ballet and Kronos Quartet

By Amy Higgins

Last night marked the opening of the world premiere of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet’s collaboration with Kronos Quartet. As two of the most innovative San Francisco native performance art companies, this collaboration was long overdue. But why might you ask?

Many San Franciscans have never heard of the Alonzo King LINES Ballet (LINES for short) because they only perform twice a year in their hometown. LINES is actually better known in Europe since they tour all around the world when they are not performing in SF. LINES has been featured at venues such as the Venice Biennale, Monaco Dance Forum, Maison de la Dance de Lyon, the Edinburgh International Festival, Montpellier Danse, the Wolfsburg Festival, the Holland Dance Festival, and most recently the Théâtre National de ChaillIot in Paris.

Since 1983, LINES performances are always doing a collaboration with noted composers, musicians, and visual artists from around the world. Alonzo King takes one type of art and combines it with another—creating an experience that forever changes our perception of each type of artwork. 

My first experience with LINES was back in 2008 when LINES did a partnership with the Shaolin monks called “Long River High Sky“. That performance has forever left an impression on me and changed how I enjoy and experience dance. I continue to go back season after season just to see how King can combine art forms to create an entirely new experience.

I grew up seeing grandiose, traditional ballets like “The Nutcracker” since I was a little girl. Ballet was always filled with beautiful, flowing lines and women dressed in sparkle and glitter tutus like fairy princesses with imaginary wings. LINES opened my mind that ballet can be something entirely different. Something beyond beauty—that which reaches a level beyond emotions and reason. Alonzo King likes to say that the goal of ballet isn’t to look pretty but to reach for transcendence.

And this week’s performance did not disappoint.

Why this world premiere of a modern ballet so important?

To celebrate LINES’s 35th Anniversary and Kronos’s 45th Anniversary, the two groups have paired up (for the first time!) to produce an extraordinary piece that will forever change the way you perceive and experience ballet and classical music while adding a local flair.

Since 1973, Kronos Quartet, David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), Hank Dutt (viola), and Sunny Yang (cello), has been helping listeners reimagine how they experience music, much like how LINES changes the perception of ballet. The company has also collaborated with many of the world’s most intriguing and accomplished composers and performers and commissioning more than 950 works and arrangements for string quartets.

For this performance, Kronos used music composed for their Fifty for the Future project where they commission ten new works a year from five women and five men. Through the project, Kronos is working together with noted composers and those who are just beginning to ignite their flame to produce a string quartet repertoire that will help educate future generations to the most contemporary and provoking pieces to play. And best of all, full digital versions of the scores and parts, recordings, and other pedagogical materials for each work can be accessed here on Kronos’ website free of charge.

Listen to the first twenty-five here:

What to expect at performance – without any spoilers!

Drawing on Karl the Fog, this world premiere performance has an air of mystery and intrigue—one that can only be found in San Francisco, especially on cool autumn evenings.

Adji Cissoko, Shuaib Elhassan and Kronos Quartet I Alonzo King LINES Ballet I photo by Chris Hardy.

Right before the piece begins, a movie is played featuring a worm’s eye view of Sutro Baths, looking out at the bay at Seal Rock. As it plays, you watch it waiting…waiting…waiting for something to happen. It’s as if we are waiting, like in life, for the next thing, instead of just enjoying the moment. My advice, learn to enjoy the moment. Let it all in. Breathe. Relax. And in that very second, you do, it’s as if all the worries of the day go away.

As the screen flows up, you’ll find yourself in a foggy San Francisco dream state, watching beauty transcend before your very eyes. Ok…no spoiler alerts. Now go see it!

Oct. 5 -14 atYBCA Theater, 700 Howard St., S.F. 415-978-2787.

Prices range from $35-$100

Click HERE to grab your tickets!

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