Alonzo King LINES Ballet brings “Handel” and “Common Ground” to Aspen

Shannon Asher
Special to The Aspen Times
Alonzo King, seen here performing in "Handel," will be in Aspen this weekend to perform that as well as "Common Ground" with his ballet company.
Courtesy of Alonzo King LINES Ballet

Esteemed dancer and choreographer Alonzo King said he’s always amazed at the beauty of Colorado and Aspen, and he is reminded of it each time he gets over the Rocky Mountains.

“Flying from Denver to Aspen is humbling because you see how beautiful the land is when it’s left undeveloped,” he said during a recent phone interview. “It makes you think of pristine times and what it must have been like when bison buffalo roamed in the millions before they were destroyed.”

King returns to Aspen with his company for a one-night-only performance presented by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet. On Saturday, Alonzo King LINES Ballet appears at the Aspen District Theatre to perform two of their works: “Handel” and “Common Ground.”

“We are a company of truth-seekers,” King said. “Our goal and our aim are to remind people of the spirit that animates our bodies, the spirit that animates all creation. I think that’s the real message in everything — we are not, as many describe, weak, whining mortals. We are immortal and we are capable of unlimited possibilities.”

Born in Georgia and now based in San Francisco, King is the son of two civil rights activists. He grew up with two very influential people in his life who were willing to die for what they believed in.

King explains that it was inspiring and intimidating to grow up in an environment like this.

“You are surrounded by people who, what comes out of their mouth and out of their being is no contradiction,” King said. “The way that they live and the way that they speak are in harmony. When they give their word, they give it under percentage, but they don’t fail on it.”

With only 12 to 14 members in his 36-year-old company, the audition process can be very competitive. When choosing the members of his company, King searches for individuals with enthusiasm. The dancers obviously need to have the proper technique and stamina, but that is not what’s most important.

If the dancer is not excited, inspired and filled with spirit, King will keep looking.

“I am drawn to people who are kind, people who have technique under their belt and people who want to continue to grow,” King said. “People who look at the art-making as a service. They’re more concerned about what they’re giving than what they’re getting.”

King notes that it’s very rare to hire someone just from the audition alone — the company needs to spend time working with that person for an extended period. For it to be fair, they must understand how intense the company works. The bottom line is character — King is looking for character.

“As in anyone who’s looking to work and to create a relationship with someone, I’m looking for the quality of their character. Is there loyalty, is there a big vision, is there sincerity?” King said. “Dancing is an incredible thing to see. It’s human traits, it’s the pinnacle of human qualities that you’re looking for. People who are tapped into creativity, or they want to be, are fun to work with.”

If King were to give advice to an aspiring ballet dancer, he would tell them their love needs to be greater than their fear — or else it doesn’t work.

Understanding where artists pull their inspiration from and learning what inspires them can often offer fascinating insight into the art that they produce.

“We are already surrounded by the most eternal light, and we have to tap into that light for inspiration,” King said. “We have to realize that we are not the doers. If we’re going to be creating, we want to tune in with the Creator. That is where the inspiration comes from.”

He said what is interesting about art-making is going through that process of evolution.

“We go from me to we, to oneness,” King said. “The whole point of the evolutionary process is for the individual to melt into the universal. That means that if you’re going to become something, the individual must die. The ego must die.”