A Conversation with Alonzo King
by Caroline Dickie
October 25, 2022
Alonzo King in Conversation for The Collective Agreement. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
The National Ballet of Canada is preparing for its November performances of Alonzo King’s The Collective Agreement, a first acquisition from the influential Founder and Artistic Director of Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco. Here, King discusses his career in dance and the inspiration for this dynamic short work.
What drew you to the art of dance and why did you choose to pursue choreography?
My mother was a dancer and her movement, for me, was awe-inspiring. When she moved, I would say that she was in the music and not on the music. She looked different to everyone else and the way that she manipulated time, it was like she was immersed in it. She would teach me things, so it was a form of intimacy, which I adored. When I moved, I would submerge and the outer world would diminish. The idea of choreography came because when I was moving, I had this intimate personal language that I was already playing in.
Ben Rudisin and Tina Pereira with Alonzo King in Rehearsal for The Collective Agreement. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
You founded your own company, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, in 1982. What has been your vision or ambition for your company in terms of its impact on dance?
In dance you can pose or you can become. You can do or you can be. If you look at the world now, people don’t want falseness – in their food, in the environment, in their relationships with others or with themselves. There is an unspoken revolution where people don’t want nonsense anymore. How do we live life? How do we make our choices? How do we develop a consciousness that is expansive but also moral? That’s the work. And that’s the work of us all as human beings. At the highest level, it’s the surrender of the ego into the universal idea. It’s scary but amazing to lose the little self within the big self.
Alonzo King and Hope Muir in Conversation for The Collective Agreement. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
What can you tell us about the meaning or themes of The Collective Agreement?
We begin life with “me” – myself, what I want, my likes and dislikes. With maturity and experience we evolve into “we,” the collective. With even more maturity, depth, expansion and experience we emerge into the “oneness.” We are all connected. In The Collective Agreement there’s the idea of good faith, that we’re here to help each other, that we’re in this together.
The music was composed by Jason Moran, who is a frequent collaborator of yours. How does his music inform your choreography?
Jason is a MacArthur Genius Award-winner. He’s brilliant. Working with him was like finding the partner that I had wanted for a long time. The dancers play their own instruments, in the body, heart and mind, and Jason’s music enriches that. It is a wonderful, auspicious moment when you have someone who is going to build a world with you from the very beginning.
Siphesihle November and Alonzo King in Rehearsal for The Collective Agreement. Photo by Karolina Kuras.
Renowned visual artist Jim Campbell lights up The Collective Agreement. Read more
The Collective Agreement is onstage November 9 — 13. Learn more