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Contemplating Alonzo King’s ‘Constellations’

Charmaine Patricia Warren | 4/10/2014, 1:45 p.m.

Bar none, Alonzo King champions the art of collaboration. For their New York season (which happens every other year) at the Joyce Theatre, the Alonzo King LINES Ballet offered the New York premiere of “Constellations” (2012), a melding of opera, lights and dance. The collaboration includes mezzo-soprano Maya Lahyani; visual artist Jim Campbell, who provides a curtain with hundreds of flickering LED spheres; and dancers Babatunji, Robb Beresford, Adji Cissoko, David Harvey, Courtney Henry, Yujin Kim, Michael Montgomery, Caroline Rocher, Jeffrey Van Sciver, Meredith Webster and Kara Wilkes.

Even though in this work King purports to take a look at the orientation of the bodies to light, the more telling response to this call doesn’t come until the second half.

Act I is an introduction; the dancers enter one at a time or in small groupings, and their sleek and beautiful bodies are illuminated by the curtain of LED lights against the back wall while shadows of birds flying by every so often are seen on the LED curtain. Lahyani, who comes and goes, is a strong presence. Toward the end of Act I, the wall of lights fall and the pace of the movement is faster; legs and arms fly, and the dancers turn, entering and exiting and just missing each other as they do so—or stopping on a dime in some remarkable pose. They do that well.

To close, Kim and Beresford, with Lahyani accompanying them, offer a gripping duet of twists and turns, signifying attempts at escape and struggle as palms push palms and arms entangle. The struggle ends with Beresford on the floor and Kim above him—the winner?

This show is all about the LED lights and how the dancers manipulate them, or how the lights manipulate the movement in Act II. From the top, balls of light fly through the air in the dark, or a fraction of the larger curtain appears—whoosh! Still maintaining their sleek lines and groupings, the dancers become one with the lights.

Henry wraps herself in an LED coat and another dancer dons the LED lights like a boa. The lights are placed on the floor in a line from corner to corner, or the men hold one, two or three at a time in each hand as an extension of their arms and make circles or patterns like fireflies cavorting in the air. We wonder what will be next; how else will the combination of dancers and lights play out?

To close, the barefooted Webster (all along, ballet slippers are worn) and Harvey, both accompanied by Lahyani, perform a stunning duet. In one instance, her back falls faintly against his belly, she crawls up his legs, heel-toe fashion, lands with her pelvis into his, collapses further into fetal position, rolls to her right, then unfolds to a soft reach away from his body to touch the floor. Lights out!