Alonzo King: the LINES of San Francisco
Alonzo King is a visionary ballet choreographer. His sees his works as "thought structures" created through the manipulation of energies that exist in all objects. Through structured improvisation, he pushes dancers past their comfort zones to find new ways of movement beyond the classical forms of ballet.
In keeping with his dance philosophy, Alonzo King's mission is to spread dance as an art form across boundaries and to transform all lives. He spreads his passion for dance and teaching through the LINES Dance Center of San Francisco, where he has been known to drop in for classes himself. It is with keeping of this very same philosophy of Alonzo King that I chose to kick off Dance in America at the LINES Dance Center.
With this mission, the LINES Dance Center offers dance education at all levels including pre-professional training program, summer program, and a BFA program at Dominican University of California as well as beginner classes. There are multiple workshops for all genres of dance and for all dance levels. The Dance Center offers more than 80 classes a week for adults. The classes and workshops are taught by professional dancers and choreographers.
"Thirty years ago our aim was to build an organization and body of work that would by its beauty open hearts and expand consciousness. We wanted it to touch lives, be uplifting, transformative, and connected. We aimed to ignite dance performance and dance training with a new force of creativity and to abolish the idea of the artist as an effete elite. These principles remain the foundation that defines all of our programs." Alonzo King
Through the LINES Community Programs he brings dance to youths. These programs allow students to develop abstract and critical thinking skills, social proficiencies, build confidence through dance and choreography.
The Spotlight: Kai Davis @mamakaibird
I had the honor to take ballet with Kai Davis, ballerina extraordinaire.
Kai Davis had an illustrious ballet career that started in 1996 with the Boston Ballet and subsequently, with Ballet San Jose and Ballet British Columbia. She retired in 2009 and now spends her time passing down her knowledge of the art form. She teaches for the Alonzo King Lines Ballet Training Program and holds multiple open classes.
Her path to her dance career is inspiring. She discovered dance when her mother, a single parent, put her into Larry Long's Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance to keep her safe while she was working double shifts. At 13-years-old, she was told by a dance teacher that she would never become a ballet dancer because she was black. Despite the overt discrimination she faced, Larry Long, himself, nurtured her growth as an artist. It was a pivotal time in her life and made her burn to break barriers, and four years later, she was contracted with The Boston Ballet. It is this same fire, passion, and tenacity that she brings to her teaching. And she balances it so well with the same nurturing spirit she learned through Larry Long and from being a mother.
"Larry taught amazing classes, that goes without saying, but for me, not only did he teach me how to dance. He taught me how to be an artist. He armed me with the knowledge of dance history, he prepared me for the difficulties I may face as a Black ballet dancer. He embraced my talents, pointed out my weakness and had a smack on the back and hug for me every day I saw him... With every combination I create and every correction I give, Larry Long is in my thoughts." Kai Davis
Taking class her Kai Davis is an incredible experience. Check out the schedule to take her next class or follow her on Instagram @mamakaibird.
Dancing at the LINES Dance Center
When you first arrive at the LINES Dance Center, you enter through a beautiful marble atrium. You take an old hand-operated elevator up to the dance studios located in the floors above overlooking the heart of downtown San Francisco. (I rode the elevator up with a comedian who was putting on a show that night!)
Registration and check-in are on the 4th floor. Kai Davis's ballet class happened to be on the 4th floor as well down a long corridor.
The studios are spacious and beautiful and well lit with large arched windows.
And last, and definitely not least, the instruction and teaching are world class. Given that it was off season, my class size was small and intimate with detailed instruction in classical ballet technique. There is typically a pianist for accompaniment. All-in-all, the LINES Dance Center offers what it promises: a truly cross-boundary professional high quality transformative and educational experience.